Cape Town – A Virunga National Park ranger has been shot and killed as Rwandan militia seek to gain control of the region which supports Congo’s only population of mountain gorillas.
The Ecologist reports that the ranger, Mbera Bagabo, was shot and killed after their foot patrol was ambushed by Rwandan FDLR militias in the Virunga National Park.
Two other rangers were seriously wounded and three militiamen were killed in subsequent fighting.
The area is home to Congo’s only population of endangered mountain gorillas and the rangers were deployed to secure a major road which runs along the park as well as protect the park from illegal forest destruction.
The illegal charcoal trade, worth over $35m a year, is a major source of income for illegal armed groups.
The Virunga National Park is protected by over 400 park rangers who operate in a region affected by 18 years of civil war and political instability.
Over 200 rangers have been killed across five DRC parks in the last 10 years.
According to the IUCN the Virunga mountain gorilla population was estimated at 380 in 2003 and has been classified as endangered.