Africa's Oldest Wildlife Reserve Struggles to Survive
An afternoon shower rolls over Africa's oldest wildlife reserve, Virunga National Park. Two decades of Central African politics and armed militias taken the lives of thousands of civilians, elephants and hippos, and more than 150 of the park's game wardens.
Virunga's game wardens protect small groups of tourists who enter to observe the park's endangered mountain gorillas. A Howard Buffett Foundation grant recently added 200 wardens to re-open a small portion of the park for gorilla tourism.
Virunga once harbored the world's largest population of hippopotamus. Numbers plummeted from 27,000 to 350, largely because poachers sell their mammoth teeth as ivory to unsuspecting buyers. These hippos were photographed on the Rutchuru River last year. (Courtesy World Wildlife Fund)
The director of Virunga National Park, Emmanuel de Merode, recently recovered from being shot four times in the chest by gunmen. He believes the park will be central to the economic recovery of the entire region which has been devastated by two decades of militia violence. He posed in the park in 2013 for this photograph.