Protecting gorillas in Virunga National Park relies on supporting the rangers who have already sacrificed much to save the park’s wildlife. The Wildlife Conservation Society has pledged $15,000 in support for the park guards and their families, but they need your help, too. Donations can be made by clicking here.

In November 2008, rebels invaded the protected area in war-torn eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and forced the park rangers from their headquarters. Now, the rangers have returned to their headquarters and are in the process of re-assessing the status of the park’s world-famous mountain gorilla population, but they still need support to protect Virunga National Park.

“The current situation is a human tragedy of immense proportions. At the same time, preserving protected areas that are experiencing poaching and warfare means keeping a constant conservation presence on the ground,” said Dr. Andrew Plumptre, Director of WCS’s Albertine Rift program. “Individuals can make a big difference in helping to save mountain gorillas, elephants, lions, and hippos by supporting the guards who protect them.”

Virunga National Park is Africa’s first national park, created in 1925 specifically to protect mountain gorillas, and is part of the Virunga Volcano Mountains, which straddle Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mountain gorillas were first studied in the wild here by WCS field scientist Dr. George Schaller (in the late 1950s) and Dr. Dian Fossey (in the 1970s and ’80s). Gorilla tourism—one of the most successful examples of conservation that directly benefits local communities—was started in the Virungas as well.

The rangers of Virunga have already made enormous sacrifices to protect this natural wonder. Since 1996, 120 have died in the line of duty. This conflict and others make it clear that saving wildlife and wild places means maintaining a presence in times of both peace and war.