Congo's Virunga National Park to remain closed until 2019

Africa’s oldest national park – known for its volcanoes and endangered mountain gorillas – will not be reopening again this year for tourists visiting eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Virunga National Park was closed last month after gunmen killed a ranger in an ambush and abducted two British tourists, who were later released.

Armed groups have been
operating in and around Virunga for several years, but there has been a spike in violence in recent months.

In a letter to tourist agents, the park’s director Emmanuel de Merode said: "For Virunga to be safely visited, much more robust measures are needed than in the past. This will require a very significant investment, and makes it impossible for us to re-open tourism this year."

For the park and its wildlife conservation programmes, this will mean a loss of revenue.

De Merode is hoping for help from donors to continue enhancing security measures to enable the park to reopen.

He told the BBC about some of the new measures being put in place: "There are a significantly greater number of rangers that came into operation very recently."

"We also do get some external support from a security firm that audits our security measures – so they’re there simply to check that the measures that we take are up to the highest international standards for protecting civilian staff."


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