Belgian Emmanuel de Merode, Chief Park Warden for the Virunga National Park in Eastern Congo, was ambushed in his car yesterday late afternoon and then shot several times and seriously injured while enroute from Goma to Rumangabo.
While according to the latest information received half an hour ago, he underwent surgery and is stabilized for now, concerns remain over his state of health.
Investigations are now unfolding and speculation is rife in Eastern Congo and across the border in Rwanda, where Emmanuel had many friends and associates working with him on the conservation of the endangered mountain gorillas across the Virunga range as to what prompted this unprecedented attack and which of the many parties with a vested interest in the region could be behind the shooting.
Emmanuel and his team of committed park wardens and rangers have in the past faced up to multiple challenges, from militias as well as from the Congolese national army, using the park as staging posts, to hide and to regroup and there were several incidents reported in the past when ranger posts came under fire and park staff were injured and even killed.
Emmanuel was reportedly alone in the car and the audacity of the ambush and the fact that he was shot several times would suggest that perhaps a score was to be settled over the way how he was managing the park without fears or favours and had always put the safety and security of both his men and the park’s wild animals first, diplomatically negotiating the virtual minefield of parties with vested in interests in mining, logging, oil exploration and poaching
Best wishes are extended to Emmanuel for a swift and full recovery while at the same time condemning this outrageous act in the strongest possible terms.