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Visting Explorer Program with Emmanuel de Merode, Director and Chief Warden, Virunga National Park

Virunga: Saving Africa’s Oldest, Most Diverse, and Most Dangerous National Park

Virunga National Park—one of the world’s most biologically diverse protected areas and home to almost a third of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas—lies in the midst of a protracted war that has lasted for more than 20 years. Armed groups proliferate, and they see the park’s vast landscape and rich natural resources as a place to hide that offers the means to finance their activities. Simultaneously, members of the surrounding communities, impoverished by years of conflict, illegally encroach on park lands looking for ways to make ends meet. Virunga’s dedicated ranger force and an ambitious development program, known as the Virunga Alliance, are the park’s response.

The Virunga rangers are a force of over 700 local men and women who risk their lives daily to protect the park’s exceptional wildlife and the civilians who work in and travel through Virunga. Stationed throughout the park, they confront the rebel groups who invade Virunga while also engaging with the local communities to help them understand and appreciate the park’s role. These men and women live on the frontlines of the conflict that threatens Virunga, and many have paid the ultimate price: over 175 rangers have been killed in the line of duty since fighting started in 1996.

Even as the rangers protect the park against immediate threats, Virunga is working towards a future free of violence. The Virunga Alliance—a partnership of public, private, and community organizations in Congo and abroad—is an effort to address the root causes of these threats through economic and social development programs. Established in 2014, the Alliance aims to create a green economy by developing the park’s key assets and the surrounding area’s natural resources through tourism, clean energy, and sustainable agriculture and fisheries. Together, these programs’ success will offer alternatives to the current conflict economy, protect the park, and position Virunga as a major driver of peace and prosperity for the Congolese people.

Emmanuel de Merode is Director and Chief Warden at Virunga National Park.

Date: Thursday, November 29

Time: 6:30 pm

Location: The Gallery, Club Headquarters, 46 E 70th Street, NY, NY, 10021

Member Ticket Price: $15

Guest Ticket Price: $10

Reservation Notes:

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Reservations are allotted on a first-come, first-serve basis. To secure a reservation, you may also call us at 212.628.8383 or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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Background image photography courtesy of members Christoph Baumer, Neil Laughton, Matt Harris and Don Walsh's image of the Bathyscape Trieste