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.
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.