IUCN is deeply shocked by the news of the violent attack on Virunga National Park’s Chief Warden Emmanuel de Merode, which took place yesterday.
“We extend our sincere good wishes to him for a full recovery and we trust that the authorities will ensure that those who undertook this outrageous act are brought to justice,” says IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre.
Virunga, Africa’s oldest national park, was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for its exceptional biodiversity in 1979. Home to some of the world's last mountain gorillas, it is situated in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
In 1994, Virunga was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, largely due to the conflict in the Great Lakes region. More recently, prospective projects from the oil and gas industry have also been posing threats to the park.
More than 150 park rangers have died while protecting Virunga since the early nineties.
“This violence is unacceptable and it must stop,” says Julia Marton-Lefèvre. “We express our solidarity with all those engaged in protecting and conserving this exceptional and highly threatened World Heritage Site. No one should have to risk their lives to protect our collective heritage.”