The park has been a target of local armed groups and the latest attack has killed 16 people, 12 of them were rangers. This Virunga national park is home to the endangered mountain gorillas apart from a wide variety of rare species. It has faced many such attacks in the past. In this case, a number of fighters belonging to a Hutu rebel group ambushed a convoy of civilians. The rangers were trying to protect them. That is what an official of the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation said. However, there was no confirmation about this from the park administration.

Any national park is the pride of the country. It is always a major Travel destination and the authorities have to ensure foolproof security for not just the visitors but also for the wildlife.

The Guardian makes a mention of multiple incidents of violence in the area. It had to ban entry of tourists for a stretch of eight months in 2018 in the aftermath of several attacks on the staff. Subsequently, it reopened after a complete review of its security precautions. It also reinforced the security apparatus by augmenting the number of rangers deployed to ensure safety of the animals and the tourists.

This national park has many security threats

The Virunga national park in Democratic Republic of Congo has to tackle many types of security threats. It is located in the North Kivu province, and has the label of one of the most dangerous conservation projects in the world. Some of its security threats pertain to militia group apart from activities related to illegal charcoal production, smuggling and poaching.

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The Guardian provides a brief history of the park. Belgian colonial authorities set it up in 1925 and it struggled soon after gaining independence in 1960. Subsequently, President Mobutu Sese Seko came to power in 1965 and the Virunga national park flourished.

However, a civil war erupted after the fall of Mobutu in 1997. Simultaneously, the population of Virunga’s mountain gorilla dropped drastically. It has now risen considerably along with the numbers of other animals that include the forest elephants. The rangers are mostly local villagers and the authorities have tried to boost the local economy by encouraging hydroelectric power projects apart from existing potentials of tourism. Incidentally, last month visits to the park did not happen. It was a preventive measure to protect the gorillas from Coronavirus infection.

The park is a UNESCO World Heritage site

According to The BBC, militiamen ambushed a convoy of civilians in the Virunga national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The rangers were protecting them and at least 12 rangers lost their lives. Members of a Rwandan rebel group unleashed the violence. An official of the government confirmed Friday's attack was the deadliest in recent history. This park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is the oldest nature reserve in Africa and a popular tourist attraction because of its mountain gorillas. A statement on the website of the park says – “Virunga Park Rangers were not the target of the assault, but lost their lives responding to the attack in defence of the local population." In an earlier incident of 2018, a woman park ranger died in an encounter with kidnappers who tried to kidnap a couple of British tourists.

Any national parks is a treasure

The loss of rangers to violence is a tragedy because any national park is a treasure and those who guard them are duty bound to protect the park and its visitors. On the other extreme is the Kruger national park where wildlife is enjoying their freedom from humans who have disappeared due to fears of infection from coronavirus. Another example of human apathy towards national parks comes from America. The government imposed 35-day shutdown by Donald Trump devastated the Joshua Tree National Park. It could take centuries to recover.