Robert Muir's "Congo Rangers" blog.
Virunga National Park is home to some of the last mountain gorillas. But it also has an amazing assortment of other animals and plants. Conservationists use words like “rich biodiversity
” when they talk about the place.
Only, Virunga is also home to a common Congo specie: the guerilla
. This politically classified ape has mastered the basic tool for hunting: the a-kay. Roaming the park in rather large groups, it is out playing the other animals, even the national army
Because of them, in Africa’s oldest national park, the shit is currently hitting the fan. The recent scale of slaughter has rarely been seen. For example, the hippo is nearly extinct
in the park. There used to be some 30 000 back in days. Makes a young guy like me nostalgic of times I didn’t know.
All hell broke loose in the last month. Alarm bells are ringing all over the conservation community right now. Even the peacekeeping mission has been asked to save the animals. Unfortunately, it’s already having a hard time saving the Congolese from themselves.
I’ve been able to follow the situation in Virunga thanks to Robert Muir’s blog
, a conservationist in Goma. He’s in an odd position himself: he holds the key to halt some of the slaughter, but one problem stops him from doing it. I’ll get to that later.
Robert has brought together and trained an elite force of guard parks. Forty men ready to tackle poachers and other no gooders.
I’m talking “I’ll gun your sorry ass down if you touch Fifi my pet gorilla
” gun ho blokes. Take a look at this photo
, you’ll understand.
When I met Robert late last year, all he talked about was this project. Like a boy talking about WWII heroes, Robert charmed me with the personal stories of what was becoming an elite corps of “Rangers”.
Compass to his belt, the young Englishman has the looks of boy scout who failed to mature entirely. Half geek, half adventurous, 110% passionate
, he even flies a zebra striped Cessna (photo on his blog). When he has fuel. On top of it, he works for ze Germans. Well, the Frankfurt Zoo. His girlfriend even helped me release a monkey
once and made me feel like a good person.
Anyway, the Americans and Europeans donors bought into the guy and funded his initiative. With the cash, he hired mercenaries, got a vehicle or two and took hold of a deserted tourist resort
on the shores of Lake Edward. Most importantly, they released the best potential within the ICCN's (park management) park guards.
A few months later, the squad was ready for action
and ultra motivated. They only needed a mission to match their vision, and unfortunately, it has come. Trouble is, they lack funds.
Nothing new in Congo. But this time, the extent is such that Robert sounds like he’s begging in his last post
. Unusual of him to write:Please help the Congo-Rangers to protect Virunga’s exceptional wildlife from […] poachers. The rangers desperately need basic supplies such as rations, medical and field equipment, and transportation.
Reading between the lines, other than the white space, it means that the situation has gotten ugly
. Coming from conservation myself, I know it’s urgent.
Ironically, in this case, the Congolese have the capacity and competency to deal with the problem themselves. But again and again, money goes to the wrong elite. Will this be another training that served no purpose?
You like watching gorillas or other likes on Animal Planet? And your stash of cash has seven digits figures? Then I recommend funding Robert’s honest project.
If you’re poor, too bad for you.
Just kidding, of course, all you gotta do in that case is link to his blog. Generate interest to an endangered World Heritage Site
. Because after all, it belongs to all of us. And it's priceless.
Good photos, goos stories, good cause. Here's the link again