Gearing Up 4 Gorillas' (G4G) is the only UK charity that focuses 100% on the conservation of the mountain gorilla in Virunga National Park, eastern DR Congo, through providing funds and equipment to the rangers whose job it is to protect them.

About the Rangers

Led by Park Director, Emmanuel de Merode, 350 extraordinary rangers are thoroughly dedicated and committed men protecting the National Park and its wildlife. Some are now well known outside DR Congo, such as Innocent, Diddy, YaYa, and Augustin, amongst others.

About the Rangers

In eastern DRC, the vast 8,000 km² (3,011 sq mls) Virunga National Park is home to a host of rare wildlife, not least the mountain gorillas. At over three times the size of Dorset or over twice the area of Cornwall, 350 rangers have a vast Park to patrol and protect.

Some G4G trustees have met these extraordinary rangers in Virunga. They have a natural, inherent passion for Virunga and many had fathers and grandfathers as rangers before them. Some have ‘turned’ from poacher to ranger. All care deeply about the future of the Park, its wildlife and the communities that live in and around Virunga.

Gorilla Monitoring Patrols

Using GPS on patrolIn the Mikeno gorilla sector, experienced rangers patrol each day to track and monitor the seven habituated gorilla groups, carefully plotting their movements via GPS. The rangers know each gorilla by their individual, unique nose print. Movements of gorillas between groups, skirmishes between individuals and new births are meticulously recorded.

Gifted trackers, the rangers ensure that the mountain gorillas of Virunga are watched over and protected 365 days a year.

Gifted trackers, the rangers ensure that the mountain gorillas of Virunga are watched over and protected 365 days a year.

Recordings and YaYa

 Over 150 rangers have died in the line of duty in the last 20 years in Virunga National Park.

In protecting the gorillas and other wildlife in the Park, such as chimpanzee, elephant, hippo and buffalo, the rangers frequently come up against armed opposition. The rangers work includes:

Poachers and snares

1,200 snares were collected in a 3 month period in the Mikeno sector and burned. These can trap gorillas’ hands or feet, leading to loss of limbs or worse. It can be dangerous work as rangers have caught poachers and confiscated live infants otherwise destined for unscrupulous dealers.

Destroying charcoal kilns

The biggest threat to the gorillas is the illegal but lucrative charcoal trade that is destroying their virgin forest home. Trees are felled and burned in massive kilns to produce charcoal, estimated to be worth around £15+ million a year. This lucrative business pits the rangers against powerful big business.

If unopposed, the forest could well be gone in just 5 -10 years and along with it, the gorillas.

Rebel / Militia Groups

To this day, different rebel or militia groups have found Virunga National Park a perfect place to conceal themselves. Largely inaccessible by vehicle, the forest offers an ideal hiding place. This puts the rangers at great risk, with many a patrol or patrol station being attacked by armed militia.

War and Conflict

Congolese army tank firing next to Rumangabo HQ – October 2008Unfortunately, warfare is not uncommon in eastern DR Congo, leaving communities to flee their homes in fear. During 2007-8, intense fighting between government troops and a large, heavily armed rebel army, made normal patrols impossible.

In 2008 and again in 2012, rangers and their families had to be evacuated to a temporary camp in Goma. They were not able to return to their crucial work for many long months.
Rangers all over the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) go about their daily work in five National Parks (and some reserves) with limited resources and often in extremely dangerous situations. All 5 National Parks are officially classified as ‘World Heritage Sites – in Danger’ by the World Heritage Committee.

The rangers work for the ‘Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature’ (ICCN). ICCN rangers have received many awards for their courage over the years. Their bravery and dedication to duty is legendary.

In Virunga, ICCN traditionally names new born gorillas after fallen rangers.

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