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The Threat

Sharing a border with Rwanda and Uganda, Virunga National Park has been subjected to 20 years of recurring war and unrest, much of it linked to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The other main driver of conflict in DR Congo's N. Kivu region has been the relentless pursuit of its abundant natural resources. Numerous rebel groups operate in the area and struggle for control over these resources. As a result, the rule of law has been heavily eroded and armed groups often operate with impunity, exploiting both natural resources and the civil liberties of the local population. The state of lawlessness that has existed for nearly two decades has exacted a terrible toll on Virunga's wildlife and forests. For example, Virunga's hippo population was over 29,000 when the civil war began and dropped to 350 before park rangers managed to stop the slaughter.

Despite a massacre of mountain gorillas in 2007, park rangers have managed to prevent further killings and the population is rising slowly. Threats to Virunga are ever-present and without the park's dedicated staff, this UNESCO World Heritage Site would likely be pillaged in a matter of a few years.