Virunga Ranger, DRC
The Virunga National Park is repeatedly affected by poaching, and the park’s rangers put their lives on the line to protect the animals living there. The park’s residents not only include gorillas, but also forest elephants and many smaller animals that are easily overlooked.
The Kivu region in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been shaken by many serious humanitarian crises. Virunga National Park lies right in the middle of it. Virunga currently has over 700 male and female rangers actively serving to protect the park, the gorillas and the communities surrounding it's borders. They routinely face harsh physical conditions, injury or even death. Almost 200 rangers have been killed in the line of duty since 1925.
These rangers go through intense selection processes and extensive training. They are all selected from local Congolese towns and villages and qualify to become civil servants within the Congolese National Park Authority (ICCN).
You can make a difference by supporting the Virunga Rangers who aim to protect Africa's oldest National Park to bring peace and properity for the four million people who depend on it.
2021 - Virunga Rangers - donation of USD 10,000
2020 was not only a difficult year for Virunga because of the COVID-19 pandemic; unfortunately, the Virunga Park Rangers also have to repeatedly deal with serious armed attacks, which often end fatally
2020 - Virunga Ranger - Donation of US$ 30,000
Virunga National Park in Congo (DRC) is close to our hearts. We are aware that hardly anyone visits or knows the park, but what Emmanuel de Merode and the Virunga Rangers do every day to keep the oldest national park in Africa alive deserves our greatest respect.
Emmanuel de Merode, Marlene Zähner - Virunga National Park
Emmanuel de Mérode has one of Africa’s most challenging jobs. As director of the 7,800-square-kilometer Virunga National Park in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, he is responsible for the management of Africa’s oldest national park, a World Heritage Site located in one of the most volatile regions of the world.
De Mérode was born in Tunisia, raised in Kenya and trained in London as a biological anthropologist. He first arrived in DRC in 1993, and earned his Ph.D. by studying the illegal bush meat trade. Anthropologist, conservationist and pilot De Mérode took on the Virunga job in August 2008, the only foreign national to be afforded the privilege – and challenge – of running one of the world’s finest parks. He shies away from his European royal heritage and makes his home in a small tent alongside fellow rangers at the park headquarters of Rumangabo, about 40 km north of the city of Goma on the shores of Lake Kivu.
In April 2014 De Mérode was ambushed by unknown assailants while driving back during the night from Goma to park headquarters. Shot four times in the legs and stomach, he survived, and today continues to spearhead the protection of Virunga and the development of jobs in the region.
Marlene Zähner is a legend among dog trainers. Besides other things, she trains police officers and their dogs in mantrailing. Due to the individual smell, the dogs can pick up a trail even under difficult circumstances - such as contaminated roads or tracks that are hours old. Just by sniffing at an empty cartridge case for example, the bloodhounds can track the shooters many miles away.
When Emmanuel De Mérode was looking for a bloodhound squadron, he became aware of Marlene Zähner who at first was in doubt that bringing bloodhounds to the Congo was doable at all. But De Mérode insisted. Within two months Marlene Zähner gathered 6 young bloodhounds and travelled with them to the Congo to introduce them to the unsuspecting rangers and to start the training. The beginning was not easy, the rangers hardly knew how to lead a dog on a leash. However, the motivated rangers quickly learned and the training was successful: "When I was in the Congo for the first time, one or two killed elephants were found every month, now this only happens once a year."
After the first field operations the war came and lasted 18 months. Zähner was one of the three whites who stayed and treated the injured. She earned a lot of resprect and is now a full member of the Virunga community. Today she regularly travels to Virunga National Park where her foundation 'Dodo Bahati' not only helps protecting wild animals, but also supports orphans in the surrounding villages of Virunga.