Wednesday, 6 June 2018

CONGO DR: Virunga National Park, Africa’s Oldest Park Closed To Tourists Over Securityconcerns

Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo announced on June 4 that it will not be welcoming tourists again until 2019.

Virunga is suspending activities for security reasons.

The decision was made following the death on May 11 of Rachel Makissa Baraka, a ranger who was attacked by armed assailants.

Baraka was the eighth ranger to be killed this year, bringing the total number of ranger deaths to more than 175 and making Virunga one of the deadliest conservation endeavours in the world.

During the incident, two British tourists and their Congolese driver were captured and taken hostage, before being released.

Overseen by Belgian aristocrat Emmanuel de Merode, the park was established in 1925, making it the oldest of its kind in Africa, and is celebrated for its mountain gorillas.

However, it faces numerous challenges, from violent militia to poaching.

In a statement announcing the closure, de Merode, who was himself critically injured by gunmen in 2014, said, It is abundantly clear that Virunga is deeply affected by insecurity and that this will be the case for some time.

For Virunga to be safely visited, much more robust measures are necessary than in the past.

In 2014, Netflix released an Academy Award-nominated documentary called Virunga about the park’s conservation efforts and the individuals who risk their lives to help preserve the natural habitat of the mountain gorillas.

Tourism Observer

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