Virunga National Park, DRC: On Sunday 8th July, the decision was taken to evacuate the rangers’ families and most of the ICCN rangers from their base at Rumangabo. Of course to evacuate is one thing, where to go is another. In 2008 under similar conditions, FZS was able to assist in setting up a camp to house the rangers and families on the outskirts of Goma. Four years on we find ourselves in a similar situation, and although we are pleased that we can help in times such as these, we would prefer that it was unnecessary.
The decision to evacuate was taken because of the current political situation. There has been some fighting between the M23 group and the Congolese military and a certain amount of lawlessness usually surrounds such conflict. There was potential for both to impact the site and the welfare of rangers and their families is a priority for the ICCN.
When I visited the camp on Monday, a remarkable amount had been achieved in a very short space of time, the latrines were in place, the tents being assembled, equipment had been distributed and each group had a large pan of food on the boil. The immediate discussions centred on where to put the water towers, and many children were making themselves useful by cleaning out the medical tent under the Doctor’s instructions. Spirits were good and I was amazed by how resilient and resourceful these people are.
We can only hope for a quick and peaceful resolution to the current political situation so these families can return home and the rangers can continue to do their job of protecting one of the most important wildlife areas on earth.
If you would like to support the ICCN then please visit their website directly http://gorillacd.org/2012/07/08/families-are-evacuated/.
FZS Project Leader Virunga National Park
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