Conservation International's Response to Virunga Warden Shooting

4/16/2014

Arlington, Va., USA - The alleged ambush and shooting of conservationist and Virunga National Park Chief Warden Emmanuel de Merode yesterday, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, was an appalling act of violence against a person who has dedicated himself to safeguarding Africa's wildlife and natural heritage.

Sadly, it is one more event in a place where escalating violence has nearly become the norm and where innocent people live under constant threat of danger.

“Emmanuel de Merode is one of the world's true conservation heroes, having committed his life to saving one of the most important protected areas in Africa and indeed in the entire world,” said Dr. Russell Mittermeier, president of Conservation International.

"In solidarity and support, the team and I at Conservation International extend our very best wishes to Emmanuel for a full and complete recovery."

Virunga National Park was Africa's first national park and has long been a treasured UNESCO World Heritage Site. Home to roughly a quarter of the 880 wild mountain gorillas left in the world, Virunga is situated on the border with Uganda and Rwanda and covers 800,000 hectares. Conservation International staff work in Eastern DRC with local authorities and communities to support sustainable development in a place that includes some of the most remote and intact forests in the greater Congo Basin and in the world.

A consequence of this natural wealth and neighboring conflict, the park also has been under pressure from the likes of poachers and armed militias that target its world-renowned gorillas and illegally log its trees to sell charcoal. Today, the park is being courted by international oil companies seeking to explore and potentially drill within its protected borders.

"There is a direct connection between conservation and security. When we invest in safeguarding countries' natural capital and empower local people to protect their wildlife, we help to support the livelihoods, security, and well-being of communities who depend on nature's ecosystems for their well-being,” Mittermeier added. "When we fail, threats to people's lives escalate."

Conservation International advocates for international governments to adopt best practices in environmental peacebuilding and conflict avoidance, based on principles grounded in the rights-based approach to development and conservation.

"We hope that the DRC government promptly investigates this crime, pursues justice for Mr. de Merode and steps up protections for people living and working in Eastern Congo," said Dr. Albert Mwangi, senior vice president for Conservation International's Africa and Madagascar Field Division.
 
 
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Note to editors:
 
Conservation International (CI) – Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity for the well-being of people. Founded in 1987, CI is headquartered in the Washington, D.C. area and employs more than 800 staff in 30 countries on six continents, and has nearly 1,000 partners around the world. For more information, please visit our website at: www.conservation.org or visit us on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
 
 
MEDIA CONTACT INFORMATION
Kim McCabeVice President, News + Publicity2011 Crystal Drive Suite 500 Arlington , Virginia 22202 kmccabe@conservation.org(703) 341-2546

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