Campaigning conservationist shot in DRC

2014-04-16 22:14
(Michele Sibiloni, AFP)

(Michele Sibiloni, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Goma - Environmentalists around the world condemned on Wednesday the shooting of a Belgian conservationist who has struggled to protect Africa's mountain gorillas in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo.

Emmanuel de Merode, director of the Virunga National Park in the DR Congo's war scarred North Kivu province, was attacked on Tuesday as he travelled alone by jeep from the regional capital Goma to a nearby nature conservation centre.

"This is the first time the director de Merode has been directly attacked. We don't yet know the motive for this attack," Norbert Mushenzi, the director's assistant, told AFP.

A Belgian lawmaker said de Merode was attacked after filing a report into the actions of a British oil company, SOCO International, which had sought to prospect in an area overlapping the park.

"Mr de Merode had just filed a report with the public prosecutor in Goma comprising the results of months - even years - of investigation into SOCO International," Francois-Xavier de Donnea told La Libre Belgique newspaper.

In 2010 SOCO International won a government contract to jointly prospect for oil on a concession overlapping the park's territory, but Kinshasa later suspended the permit under international pressure.

De Merode, who is around 40, was reportedly rescued by an army patrol and rushed to the Heal Africa hospital in Goma where he underwent surgery to remove bullets.

"He was shot in the stomach and the thorax. He had surgery and is still in intensive care, and according to the surgeon, so far there is hope," hospital spokesperson Ferdinand Mugisho told AFP.

North Kivu province has been ravaged by successive conflicts for more than 20 years.

'Dedicated conservationist'

The reserve, which covers 800 000 hectares of land on the border with Uganda and Rwanda, has attained worldwide renown for its rare and endangered mountain gorillas.

The attackers did not steal anything from de Merode.

A group of North Kivu environmentalists condemned the attack, which they said was aimed at "discouraging community development and conservation efforts".

The provincial governor of North Kivu, where Goma is located, visited de Merode in hospital on Wednesday.

"He is lucid, he is talking, and he thanked the army for rescuing him, as well as the doctors who saved him," Julien Paluku told AFP.

Created in 1925 in the far east of what was then the Belgian Congo, the Virunga park has been declared an "endangered" part of the global heritage by UNESCO.

Poachers and logging teams have damaged the reserve, as elsewhere in Africa, but the park is also criss-crossed by rival armed groups and soldiers, while local people have taken up illegal residence.

The quest for oil is the latest threat to Africa's most venerable wildlife reserve.

WWF head of conservation Lasse Gustavsson said de Merode was a "dedicated conservationist" who put his life on the line every day to protect the park and the people who depended on it for their livelihoods.

"I know how much Emmanuel loves this park. He continues to be a source of inspiration to those around him and I wish him a swift recovery."

Read more on:    democratic republic of congo  |  central africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.