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Virunga National Park Is Now Closed to Tourists

The Democratic Republic of the Congo News Insider Guides
by Marie-Louise Monnier May 15, 2018

Last Friday (May 11th), two British tourists and their driver were abducted in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park ranger who accompanied them, Rachel Masika Baraka, aged 25, was shot to death in the attack.

According to Time, the tourists and the injured driver were released two days later, but this aggression against travelers has pushed the park’s management to close Virunga to tourists indefinitely, explains Condé Nast Traveler.

Tourism in the park had been flourishing since the park reopened in 2014 after many years of closure due to conflicts in the area.

Visitors come to the 3,000-square-mile park to hike the Virunga Mountains (a chain of volcanoes) and to observe the amazing wildlife of the park, especially the population of mountain and lowland gorillas who benefit from immense conservation efforts.

Mr. De Merode, Virunga Park director, told the BBC: “We will keep tourism suspended until we can assure the security of visitors. That will be a long process, and it will hit the park hard, very hard, financially, but there is no way around it.”

Armed groups in the park, as well as poachers and illegal natural-resources traders currently make the area extremely unsafe to visitors, rangers, and other park staff members, says the BBC.

H/T: Condé Nast Traveler

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