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The Rangers of Virunga National Park

RUMANGABO, NORTH KIVU, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO - NOVEMBER 23: Emmanuel De Merode, the tireless ICCN Congolese Conservation Director of Virunga National Park, negotiates with CNDP rebel leader General Laurent Nkunda for the Congolese Conservation Authority's return to Bukima in the Mountain Gorilla sector of Virunga National Park for the first time in over 15 months of fighting and tensions in the area, North Kivu, D.R.C, November 23, 2008. General Nkunda agreed to this at the meeting. The Gorilla Sector of the Park has been occupied by the rebel movement CNDP under rebel Congolese Tutsi General Laurent Nkunda. Since September 2007 no ICCN Ranger has set foot in this sector, almost all had to flee the fighting and it has not been safe to return. Recent violence in the region has seen CNDP extend its power in the region and it now controls over 50% of the park and all of the Southern section. Emmanuel De Merode, the Director of Virunga National Park, has performed some remarkable diplomacy since the recent fighting and has succesfully negotiated with CNDP and General Nkunda to return the ICCN Rangers to the Park. This is a fragile process but so far 120 courageous Rangers are back at the Southern Headquarters at Rumangabo and there is a camp in the Gorilla Sector at Bukima which has begun a Gorilla census to determine the effects of the war on the mountain Gorilla population. It is a remarkable case of conservation winning out over politics. The DRC had just over 200 of the extremely rare mountain Gorillas, of which there are only 680 in the world. (Photo by Brent Stirton/Getty Images)
The Rangers of Virunga National Park
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