Virunga´s Rangers Virunga National Park - DRC

Virunga National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

This is Africa´s oldest and most biologically diverse protected area

Around one third of the world population of critically endangered mountain gorillas live in the lush volcanic forests of Virunga National Park.
The park´s 3000 square miles (7,800 square kilometers) is comprised of three sectors: northern, central, and southern - each with an unrivaled diversity of landscapes and ecosystems.
Virunga National Park was founded in 1925 as Parc Albert, and renamed in 1969 as Virunga National Park after the country´s independence from Belgium.

The Virunga National Park is located in a region deeply impacted by illegal economies, war and militias. Additionally, eastern DRC is one of the poorest places on the African continent, and competition for the park's rich natural resources has always been vicious. Thus, the park and its surroundings have constantly suffered from waves of illegal extraction, hunting, fishing and pouching .

Currently, Virunga is protected by more than 700 Park Rangers. These local men and women go through intensive training and risk their lives on a daily basis to safeguard the park's wildlife. Beside this conservation effort, the park is committed to supporting local communities.

In 2008, the Congolese National Parks Authority (Institut Congolaise pour la Conservation de la Nature ICCN), and the Virunga Foundation entered into a partnership to manage the park. Named the 'Virunga Alliance', it is an innovative development programme to address the root causes of poverty and conflict, with the aim of eradicating illegal and destructive resource extraction in the region.

Virunga Park Rangers developed a unique strategy between conservation and sustainable development projects inside the park to create new opportunities for the region, including more jobs, reducing poverty, increasing the use of hydropower, sustainable agriculture and fisheries, and tourism. One of the key decision-making processes are the forums hosted by the Virunga Rangers to plan and exchange information with local communities.

This innovative community-led approach to conservation has been working to reduce the pressure currently faced by the local communities and Park Rangers from militias, criminal actors and land grabbers.

Rangers Project

Virunga´s Rangers stand fearlessly on the frontline of conservation for the protection of the park´s wildlife, natural resources and surrounding communities.
They routinely face harsh physical conditions, injury, or even death. Over 175 Rangers have been killed in the line of duty. Without the commitment of these brave men and women, Virunga would not exist.
These Rangers go through intense selection processes and extensive training to work for the park. They are all selected from local Congolese towns and villages and qualify to become civil servants within the Congolese National Park Authority.
Over the course of the last several years, Global Witness has been driving a major international campaign to stop oil companies drilling in Virunga and the surrounding area. They’ve also been campaigning to ensure that the activities of Soco International, a UK multinational company, with operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo are properly investigated by the relevant authorities.

Furthermore, armed groups fighting the Congolese government and each other have long been active within the park’s boundaries. According to the Game Rangers Association of Africa (GRAA), the militia engage in hunting for bushmeat, illegal fishing and logging, and poaching -especially of elephants, to fund their activities.

The complex historical context of the region leading to cultural conflicts, unrest stemming from Congo’s civil wars, along with poaching, logging, and extractive projects, have damaged the wildlife population and made the park vulnerable to attacks by militia groups. Rangers must protect this area against economic and political interests.


1. Joseph King; Virunga chimps; November 1, 2014; (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). 2. Google maps. 3. Virunga National Park official logo. 4. Alex Proimos; T92A2657-2; January 8, 2018; (CC BY-NC 2.0). 5. Joseph King; Nyragongo as seen on clear day from Mikeno Lodge in Virunga National Park #DRC; February 27, 2014; (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). 6. Johannes Zielcke; On the slopes of Nyiragongo; March 25, 2019; (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).