Written by: Samantha Mintz-Agnello
On Monday, April 9, 2018, six people were murdered in the Virunga National Park located in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). As Africa’s oldest national park, on the border of Uganda and Rwanda, the Virunga National Park works to protect and preserve endangered species and wildlife, the most notable being the highly-endangered mountain gorilla. Though nothing has been confirmed about who is responsible, currently the Mai-Mai militia are suspected to have carried out these malicious acts in an effort to poach the animals in the park. The Mai-Mai are a terrorist organization in the DRC who, although not tied to a specific movement, have caused a lot of issues and harm, such as war exploitation, looting, and sexual violence. The people murdered were five park rangers and their driver, while another ranger sustained injuries. These horrific acts demonstrate a core problem with hunting and poaching organizations. Not only are hunters destroying the lives and habitats of animals, but they are now posing a threat to innocent people.
The tragedy that took place on Monday morning is reflective of a problem separate from the moral debate of hunting: the hunting of those working to protect endangered species. The fact that people are so desperate to poach that they are willing to kill people shows the skewed values some people have placed on hunting. This issue is reflective of society: the fact that the monetary benefits of poaching, which in fact do not have much evidence in their favor, are used as justification for murder. Not only are animals being hunted, but humans are being hunted as well. It is difficult to say who is safe from the poachers and hunters in Uganda and Rwanda.
However, let’s not forget that besides the cost to human lives, the issue of the immorality of hunting still exists. The gorillas at the Virunga National Park are desired because of charcoal. These gorillas are severely endangered, with only approximately 880 gorillas remaining. The conservation efforts of places like the Virunga National Park have helped increase the population of the mountain gorilla, but the actions of those hunting them are destroying the work and effort put in by the Park. The rangers who went into work on Monday morning were not engaging in extreme protest towards hunting and poaching; these people were simply doing their jobs.
The murders at the Virunga National Park show a flaw that exists in the Democratic Republic of Congo and throughout other nations in Africa, such as Zimbabwe. The government should pass and enforce strict hunting legislation to prevent these heinous crimes from taking place. A lot of illegal hunting is taking place in the DRC, and given that there is currently no conversation about such legislation, these problems will persist. If changes are not made in the laws and their implementation, not only will endangered species cease to exist, but people will continue to be killed as well. Once there is more information about these murders, the government should work towards a solution for both hunting and poaching, to protect those who are ethically and legally working to protect endangered animals.