Virunga's chief warden returns after the shot

Virunga’s chief warden returns after the shot

May 27, 2014
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Emmanuel de Merode3

Emmanuel de Merode, a prominent Chief Warden of Africa’s oldest and most biodiversity national park, Virunga of Rwanda has finally recovered from the severe wounds he obtained after being shot at 4 times in the legs and stomach by “yet-to-be” identified culprits. The whole incidence happened about 37 days back when this innocent primatologist was travelling alone to main road near Goma and Rumangabo Ranger Headquarters.

Many people especially tourist were scared that he may not come back after the incidence since the park has experienced over 140 similar tragedies and the victims fail to come back for duty but to their surprise, Emmanuel de Merode returned for duty on Monday this week after just 36 days. Many people including fellow rangers at the park were so delighted to see their master who has transformed the park into one of the best tourism sites come back. They patiently waited for him to come from the hospital together with their families and this showed how the whole stuff at the park works together as one.

In his first speech after the incidence, he said that no matter what happens, his work of protecting the wild animals in Virunga National Park must go on. He even called up his fellow rangers to be courageous and strong in everything they do no matter what happens in their lives. Emmanuel de Merode vowed to fight all the poachers in the area to the last breathe.

Established in 1925, Virunga National Park is found in Rwanda and it is mostly known for harboring the rare mountain gorillas. The park has a quarter of the 900 mountain gorillas left in the world and visitors on their safari to Rwanda tour this park specifically to track these rare primates in their natural habitats. The mere fact that the park is one of the oldest parks where true nature and magnificent views are displayed for breathtaking attracts many people from different parts of the world. The park has other animals including the highest concentration of hippos in Africa and man’s closest, the chimpanzees.

To many, Virunga is thought to be a source of hope for the future despite the region’s struggles with instability, poverty and rampant violence. It is believed that by attracting tourist to the region, the welfare of the local people will improve and the government will gain by obtaining more tax revenues. This is the reason why the Rwanda government has come out to support Emmanuel de Merode’s dream of protecting the animals of Virunga from poachers. It has promised to provide more help where necessary to see that the lives of all the game rangers are not in danger.

However, Natasegara, a spokesperson for the park said that protection of the mountain gorillas and other wild animals in the park starts with the local people who are the first beneficiaries from tourism. He said that it is up sad that the very local people who are to gain from the park are the ones fighting against the conservation programmes.

In Emmanuel de Merode’s conclusion, he said that “it is our duty to protect the mountain gorillas and all the other flora and fauna in the park since we owe this to our children and our grandchildren.”