A message from the warden of Virunga NP, Emmanuel de Merode
We are extraordinarily grateful for all that you have done for us, and which you continue to do. Yes, indeed, it has been a terribly difficult year, with the attacks on our staff in April, that will remain difficult for us for a very long time. The security situation has not improved, and we suffered another attack last week, with four of our staff very seriously injured, but thankfully no fatalities among the rangers. COVID19 has also taken its toll, with a loss of tourism revenue and the need to increase our vigilance to keep the gorillas safe from the virus.
But all has not been bad. The end of the Ebola epidemic was announced ten days ago, and we've kept a zero-poaching of elephants record for almost three years now, and we're beginning to see a return of the herds to the central sector of the park. The social development programmes in clean energy and agriculture are also beginning to have a real impact in the communities, which also gives us a lot of hope for the future of the park.
I hope to see you one day soon, perhaps in Virunga.
Covid-19 Support Virunga NP, DRC2020 - 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.
As part of our Covid-19 support programme, we were able to support the park with a substantial amount of money in July 2020. The donation is used for the Virunga Emergency Fund, whose resources are needed especially in times of crisis like these to support the rangers, their families, especially the families of rangers who have been killed or wounded in the line of duty, and of course to buy food and materials urgently needed for the work in the park.
We thank all who have donated for the Virunga National Park and wish Emmanuel de Merode and his team much success and please stay well.
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.