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Three wildlife rangers killed in attack by violent militia in DRC

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Three rangers have been killed and another is missing after an attack by violent militia in Virunga national park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, bringing the number of fatalities in the park this year to eight. The park rangers, Charles Paluku Syaira, Jonas Paluku Malyani and Pacifique Musubao Fikirini were murdered on the morning of Monday 14 August during a routine patrol around the park, which is home to critically endangered mountain gorilla. Park authorities said the attack was carried out by Mai Mai rebels, the notoriously violent militia that have been operating throughout DRC since the 1996 war. The militias are formed by local leaders, and are renowned recruiters of child soldiers. Mai Mai rebels are accused of being behind multiple deadly attacks against park rangers across the country. In December 2016, 26-year-old Patrick Muhayirwa, a ranger at Virunga park, was shot, and on 16 July this year, Dudunyabo Machongani Célestin, 30, was killed. Of the most recent attack, Virunga national park said in a statement: “Our thoughts and sincere condolences are with the families and widows of the rangers. “Ranger Charles leaves behind his wife and eight children; ranger Jonas leaves behind his wife and five children, and ranger Pacifique leaves behind a wife and four children.” They added that tourism activities in Virunga “remain unaffected”. The incident brings the total number of rangers killed in the field in 2017 to eight, according to Virunga park authorities. More than 160 rangers have died protecting the park in the last 20 years. “The political and security crisis DRC is experiencing has hit park rangers particularly hard as they are protecting an area that armed groups are using to regroup, hide and resupply,” said Melanie Gouby, a journalist whose investigation into a British oil company’s illegal activities in Virunga national park was part of the Oscar-nominated documentary Virunga. “Their work is more dangerous than ever.” Virunga national park is a Unesco world heritage site, the most biologically diverse protected area in Africa. It is home to three species of great apes, and other endangered species including okapi and elephants – though there are now fewer than 400 elephants in the park. Park rangers work to protect these animals from poachers, and the latest deaths continue a tragic pattern of brutal ambushes against rangers. Gouby added: “If the crisis deepens, the wildlife the rangers are protecting is at risk of being further depleted as people turn to poaching for meat and for trafficking, and the rangers who are on the frontline of that fight will also be increasingly at risk.

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Posted by on Aug 17 2017. Filed under Wildlife. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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