There are many people who put their own lives in danger to protect those who can’t protect themselves. The first jobs to come to mind are often police officers, firefighters, and other forms of law enforcement. But there are others that we often forget about. Park rangers fall into this category, and can often times it can be a thankless and dangerous job.
Recently, a lot of attention was brought to a few rangers of Virunga National Park for the best reason. One of the rangers at the park snagged a selfie with a couple of gorillas that are protected at the park, and the photo went viral. Once it took off, more photos were posted of the local protected gorillas hanging out with rangers and posing for pictures. These photos aren’t just for entertainment though, they reflect the bond that these animals share with the rangers.
Virunga National park is UNESCO world heritage site and one of Africa’s oldest and most biologically diverse protected sites. It prides itself on being home to more than 218 different species of mammals, 706 bird species, 187 reptile and amphibian species, and 22 primate species. Nearly one third of the critically endangered mountain gorilla live in Virunga National Park. The rangers have to fight to keep these animals from different dangers so they don’t become extinct, and 179 have lost their lives protecting these creatures
The park’s protection relies on over 600 park rangers that patrol the area for poachers and illegal hunting. These rangers are at the front lines of conservation, and that sometimes can mean putting their own lives in danger to keep wildlife safe. In the past this area of the Congo was deeply affected by armed conflict and war, making life for humans and wildlife in the area very difficult.
“There is a bond that ties us together. A relationship that is very, very close between the guardians and the gorillas,” says Andre Bauma, the manager of the Senkwekwe Centre. This isn’t the first time that a rangers have gone viral for photos with the animals. Last year, there were a few that were photographed comforting an orphaned gorilla, its parents more than likely victims of poaching, one thing the rangers fight against. The photo touched hearts because it was so clear that the animal was grieving, similar to humans, and it brought attention to the fact that poaching hurts more than we realize.
According to the parks website, Virunga would not exist without these rangers’ bravery. Though being a ranger is often times a stressful job and seems unrewarding, it’s moments like these that make it worth it.
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