A Story of Conflict, Renewal and Hope
Emmanuel De Merode, Director for Virunga National Park, gives an account of the struggle to save one of the world's great national parks with its population of mountain gorillas. He renders accessible to an audience one of the darkest conflicts in recent history, the bloody civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is not just a story of bleak and bloody facts: ultimately it is a story of determination and courage and how a small unit of Congolese park rangers, community workers and local environmental activists brought about a miracle in African wildlife conservation.
Anthropologist, conservationist, pilot, Emmanuel worked to control the bushmeat trade and protect endangered wildlife in Central and Eastern Africa. His main focus has been support for African wildlife rangers in remote and difficult national parks and reserves. His work was primarily in the parks of eastern DRC, working to sustain the national parks through the DRC's 15-year civil war.
In 2008 he was appointed by Congolese Government as Director for Virunga National Park. 350 rangers fall under his command and much of his work is focused on protecting the park's exceptional wildlife, that include a critically important population of Mountain Gorillas, elephants, okapis and chimpanzees.
His first breakthrough was to broker an agreement between the Congolese Government and Rebel Leader Laurent Nkunda to spare the Mountain Gorilla Sector of the Park from the rages of the ongoing civil war and to enable government rangers to redeploy in rebel territory.
Since 2008 he has led a team of Congolese rangers in an effort to de-militarise the national park, re-establish the rule of law in a park formerly controlled by rebel militias, initiate local development and bring a significant funding through social media, local enterprise and tourism development.
Emmanuel's work also includes the promotion of sustainable energy for poor households, as an alternative to forest destruction for charcoal, through the development of combustible briquettes, a new energy industry that is projected to create 30,000 jobs in post-conflict areas of eastern DRC.
Emmanuel De Merode
Organisation: Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo
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