The park rangers of Virunga National Park, a 7,800 square kilometer reserve in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, face a multitude of problems. "We're a conservation agency, but we're also up against armed militia who are intent on destroying the park to make profit. We've lost a lost a lot of of our large mammals," states Emmanuel de Merode, the park's director. Yet the Congolese rangers are committed to protecting the mountain gorillas that inhabit that region. Innocent Mburanumwe, a warden in the southern sector of the park says: "We are there just to protect those animals. Those apes, they are like my friends. I love them so much."
Yet there has been a immense price to pay for this protection. Over 140 rangers have died on the job.
However, the park is opening itself up to the surrounding communities, and people are responding. By providing jobs to those same people who hold the weapons, the park can combat violence and habitat destruction in an effective and sustainable way.