Author Archives: conservevirunga

Deo Kujirakwinja is a Field Researcher working in Virunga since 2003.
Until now, I have been supporting conservation activities in Virunga despite security situations. These include biological and socioeconomic surveys in and around the Virunga, ranger training in ecological monitoring, support to transboundary cooperation, conflict resolution and community meetings

Can we protect hippos from poaching in Virunga?

Major causes of declines in wildlife in developing countries witnessed during the recent decades have been population growth, habitat fragmentation, inadequate land use practices and management, lack of economic alternatives, and unsustainable use of resources. In a conflict region like the Easternof the Democratic Republic of Congo, the fauna has been targeted by different armed groups and local people for meat and illegal wildlife and wildlife product trafficking. Among species that have been most poached is thecommon hippopotamus.

Hippopotamus in Ishasha River near a Ranger camp

In Virunga National Park (ViNP*) for example, numbers dropped by 98% from 30,000 in the 1970s to 629 individuals in 2006. With increased patrolling and transboundary cooperation between the DRC and Uganda park authorities, there is hope that hippopotamuses will still exist in Virunga National as the Ishasha river still inhabit a bit of hippopotamus population.

Hippopotamus in Ishasha River near a Ranger camp

The patrolling efforts along the hippopotamus habitats are still low and there is need of closer monitoring to protect them from poaching for bushmeat.


Thanks to Robert J., Anna, Jessica, Emmerentiane and Antonio for their support to our activities!


* The abbreviation ViNP to distinguish Virunga National Park in DRC from Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda

Elephant and rangers’ harmony in Virunga

Through our Elephant monitoring program in collaboration with ICCN rangers in Kabaraza station, we have been able to protect three different herds of elephants.

Through daily monitoring  of elephants, rangers are able to monitor and locate elephants for their protection from poaching.

Elephant at the Mabenga barrier

On 29th, I visited the forest and met up with more than 50 elephants. I was surprised that elephants sighted us before we could and we were scared. As we were moving making some noises, the elephants were scared and took off. I was told by rangers: “they must be around our camp by now as they feel safe around there”. Fifteen minutes later, we were at road (barrier) and met with more than fifty elephants in three different groups.

It is unbelievable that, although elephants have been poached for the last decade in Virunga,  you can get closer to this herd of elephants thanks to the devotion of rangers.

There is need to continue supporting this activity as we hope this herd can restore elephant population in Virunga Park. In 2008, we estimated more than 280 individuals in three different groups.

Field gears and ranger rations are needed by ranger and further support for monitoring.

Thanks to those who are supporting my work in Virunga.

Lessons for conservation related conflict resolution projects in war situation

Stakeholders closing a channel on Lake Edward

The Eastern DRC has been under fire and armed conflict since 90s. The fauna and flora of Virunga National Park are intensely impacted because armed groups target rangers and local communities work for armed groups to use illegally resources. In some areas, local communities are allowed to extract resources (fishing villages) but they don’t comply with regulations. This creates conflict between park staff and communities over resources. More armed conflicts weaken law enforcement.Through a conflict resolution process, a participatory framework was developed, agreed and implemented in Nyakakoma (one of the three fishing villages in Virunga Park) to reduce illegal fishing. All stakeholders (park managers, fisheries and civil society, army and police) were involved and the decrease of illegal fishing was about 50%.  Refugee camp in Kibumba

In October 08; with the clash of the war between rebels and legal army, it was impossible to enforce anything as armed people relied on fishing to survive. We kept contact with stakeholders and make sure that the situation is known and monitored. After five months, with political negotiations, stakeholders wished to restart the process and implement the framework. The success of any conflict resolution project in conservation relies on collaboration between stakeholders which improves relationship and communication among them and built trust. But to get to that level; there is need of commitment and willingness from conservation organizations, support and regular contact with stakeholders and monitoring of the situation. Your support to this blog will strengthen the ongoing conflict and community activities!

Conflict over Natural resources

Virunga National Park is one of the remaining forest in the East North Kivu province and is surrounded by lots of villages with high demographic density.

Kanyabayonga city
Kanyabayonga City

These villages are living near the Park by using resources close to them in different ways with real impact on habitat and wildlife.

Protection of the Park becomes then complex and violent as park managers and their partners face different threats towards their lives.

Managing these conflicts need committment and good willing of different actors after understanding these conflicts and different parameters.

Through the process of conflict analysis, mapping and strategy development, we’ve been able to start looking at different opportunities that can help reducing some of the conflicts starting with fishing villages as it can lead to other complex conflicts.

Needs from different stakeholders are increasing towards conflict resolution that we need to put more efforts even though some conflicts need political decisions.

ICCN rangers
ICCN Rangers

Help Virunga to survive!!!

Virunga Elephant To Be Protected

Virunga National Park as first National Park in Africa is facing several threats despite the efforts from rangers and conservationist to protect its resources.

One of its resources is African elephant (Loxodonta africana) inhabiting different ecosystems of the park from the forested areas to the savanna areas.

PP Lulimbi 029.jpg

Elephants in Virunga have been killed in Virunga for the trophy. Due to the occupancy of the park by armed groups, elephants have moved to areas closed to ranger posts with limited movement. Once they want to move, they are killed and forced to stay in limited area.

In order to protect them form this daily threats, rangers have been trying to plan for daily patrols and observations. Three groups of rangers have been monitoring about 300 elephants in Kabaraza ranger station with limited food ration and basic field equipment.


Any help for these elephants is an input to Virunga conservation

Thanks to Antonio C., Nancy A. and Robert J.G. for their support to our work

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Partnership for Conservation

There is need of working together to save the threatened species

60 years of Virunga.JPG

The eastern DRC is facing armed crisis for about three decades now. Protected areas are among the vulnerable areas as they are used by armed groups as their shelter and source of food and income.

Virunga National park is suffering from that as a consequence of armed conflicts. The different armed groups in Eastern DRC have found their refuge into the Park and depend on its resources.

Main damage concerns:

  • Poaching and massive killing of fauna:

Braconnage des FDLR.jpg

­ this April; about 14 elephants have been killed by armed groups

­ in 2006, about 400 hippos have been killed by armed groups

­ number of Kobs are killed daily

­ charcoal making and illegal timber trade

  • restricting access to park surveillance:


­ some of the armed groups have created some networks to facilitate illegal fishing in the Lake

­ they don’t allow rangers and conservation actors to access the area

­ they are allowing cultivation into the protected area

­ there are some gunshots exchange between rangers and armed groups

  • illegal wildlife trafficking

In order to get the issue solved or reduced, there have been several initiatives at political and military levels to try some solutions:

­ Involve the army to support rangers and organize joint patrols in different areas

­ Involve different stakeholders from various areas to help conservation dedicated organizations to protect the park

­ Create some local networks to gather information about the different areas occupied by armed groups

­ Support park rangers in their daily patrols and provide them field equipments

Marine patrol.JPG

All these activities are done and need to be done at daily basis. Due to the exceptional situation in DRC, there are daily cases that need support to avoid any political involvement in some of the park issues.

By Helping Virunga, you help to protect threatened species.

Thanks to Robert J. and Nacy A. for your support


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