The Rangers of Virunga is a photo essay by world renowed photographer Brent Stirton taken in Congo. This magnificent photo doc is a microcosm of what is going on throughout the continent. His essay catalogues the issues Africa faces with the environment, aid, humanitarian and refugee crisis, deforestation, wildlife protection, religion and more.
VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK, EASTERN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO, JULY 2007:
On the 23 July 2007 the largest massacre of seriously endangered primates in recent years occurred in Virunga National Park in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. A Silver-Back Alpha male, “Senkekwe,” the leader of the group was brutally assassinated, shot 5 times as he beat his chest while trying to defend his family. Three females were also shot, one of them partially burnt in a mysterious act of sadism. One of the females had a young 3 month-old baby and the other was heavily pregnant. The baby was later found and despite severe stress and dehydration, it survives in captivity today but can never return to the bush. The body of yet another female mountain gorilla was found a few days after the initial discovery. The Congolese Conservation Authority Rangers moving amongst this gruesome discovery were quiet, no-one spoke, when they did it was only to voice deep anger. As someone who has covered African conflict for a long time it was one of the most sobering experiences I have ever had amongst African men. This attack was an assault not only on a critically endangered species but also on the identity of these rangers, who see themselves and their entire reason for being as inextricably interwoven in the care of these gorillas.
At the time the motivations for the killings were not entirely clear, but subsequent investigations conducted by a galvanized ICCN (Congolese Conservation Authority,) point to a connection to the illegal charcoal production industry operating in Virunga National Park. It appears that these killings were a statement of power, a warning from the Charcoal businessmen designed to put the struggling conservation authorities in their place and have them back down in their attempt to derail the illegal charcoal industry in Virunga National Park.
Its’ complex but it’s important to make the connection here: - read more.