Virunga National Park Headquarters evacuates rangers and families

On July 8, 2012, nearly 800 people – rangers and their families – were evacuated from Virunga National Park headquarters at Rumangabo and taken to the town of Goma, approximately 40 kilometres to the south. Approximately 30 rangers and Virunga National Park warden Emmanuel de Merode stayed behind to protect the park headquarters and the four orphaned mountain gorillas at the Senkwekwe Centre.

“The evacuations of all the staff to the displacement camp in Goma went very well, with everyone both in Rumangabo and in Goma doing an extraordinary job,” wrote de Merode on the park’s website on July 9. “The conditions in the new camp are very tough, with everyone living in terribly cramped conditions under tarpaulins, but they have safety, food and drinking water,” he added.

The tarps were transformed into tents on the second day of the evacuation. Photo: LuAnne Cadd/Virunga National Park.
The tarps were transformed into tents on the second day of the evacuation. Photo: LuAnne Cadd/Virunga National Park.

Many of the evacuated rangers and their families are now living with foster families in Goma, with 47 families, or around 220 people, living in the camp erected about 10 kilometres from Goma. The moral is good within the camp as Virunga National Park providing shelter, food, medical care, water and sanitation facilities.

Each family was provided with a tarp, mattress, pans, soap, chardust ball charcoal, cooking stove, water and food. Photo: LuAnne Cadd/Virunga National Park
Each family was provided with a tarp, mattress, pans, soap, chardust ball charcoal, cooking stove, water and food. Photo: LuAnne Cadd/Virunga National Park

As of  July 10, 2012, while the M23 rebels have occupied the military barracks at Rumangabo, they have left the park headquarters alone. While the situation remains volatile, the evacuated rangers and their families will remain in Goma.

This is not the first time Virunga National Park headquarters has been evacuated. In 2008, advancements by the rebel group CNDP kept the rangers and families in the temporary camp near Goma for many weeks. It is unknown how long it will take before Rumangabo is again safe enough for them to return home.

IGCP is working with our coalition of the Fauna & Flora International, African Wildlife Foundation and the World Wide Fund for Nature to mobilise emergency resources for the displaced rangers and their families and for Virunga National Park/ICCN.

Keep abreast of the situation throughout Virunga National Park on their website gorilla.cd.

This article originally appeared on the International Gorilla Conservation Programme website

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