Who the Advance Force is Protecting

TextThere are approximately 700 Mountain Gorillas remaining in the world, located in Virunga National Park and Bwindi National Park in Uganda. Less than two decades ago, the hippo count was over 22 thousand hippos, mostly along Lake Edward. A new aerial count has shown that years of poaching and the recent frenzied slaughter of hippos have decimated one of the most important hippo populations in the world to 315 animals.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has the oldest tradition of national park management in Africa - Virunga is Africa's first National Park (second in the world after Yellowstone National Park).

The local communities around Lake Edward and the Virunga are also being affected by the decimation of the hippos - hippo dung helps to sustain the lake's fish and in recent years, as the hippos have declined, so have the tilapia fish populations and fisherman's catches have plummeted.

Correspondence from the field after receiving our donation:

11/29/06
Robert Muir
Frankfurt Zoological Society
Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo

Thank you so much, this is actually really timely as we have just lost one tenth of the remaining hippo population in two days and need to support rangers on the ground protecting the last few individuals.

12/13/06
Emmanuel de Merode PhD
The Africa Conservation Fund

I am writing to thank you, again, for all your support and for your very generous donation to the rangers in Virunga, and to update you on the situation. We are getting the uniforms delivered, and rations have been purchased. The salary supplements will be applied this month. We have taken this step because rangers have not received support for about ten years, despite the commitment that they have made to the protection of Virunga's wildlife, and the dangers that they face (97 have died in the last ten years). Our organization, the Africa Conservation Fund and Rob Muir's, the Frankfurt Zoological Society will be covering the shortfall of funds so that the rangers get the minimum support they require to operate, but our funds are extremely limited, so your gift makes a very big difference to our chances of making the difference in Virunga.

The funds that you have provided are key to the success of the rangers' work, which is exceptionally difficult at the moment (we are trying to deal with the hippo slaughter on Lake Edward, the Ugandan Militias in the Northern forests and the rebel uprising in the Mikeno gorilla sector, all at the same time). I completed the aerial survey of Lake Edward today, and the numbers are not encouraging, down 70% on last year's survey. Rob went in with the advance force this morning to try to dislodge the mai-mai militias on the southern shore of Lake Edward, to protect these last remaining hippos.

We'll send you accounts for your gift, and Rob, who is supervising the programme, will provide regular updates through the Congo Rangers weblog.

Very many thanks indeed for your generosity and for your concern.
Emmanuel

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