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The Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will remain closed to tourists for the remainder of 2018. The park was due to open on Monday, June 4, following its closure in mid-May after the killing of a ranger, and kidnapping and subsequent release of two tourists.
In a statement released late on Monday, Park Director Emmanuel de Merode said the decision to close Virunga for the rest of the year had been made to allow for a thorough review of security precautions, and reinforcement of the 700 rangers deployed in the park.
Virunga has been plagued by rebel factions, poaching and illegal deforestation since the early 1990s. In April 2018, eight rangers were ambushed and killed by rebels in the park, adding to the 180 rangers killed over the last 20 years, making it the ‘deadliest National Park in the world’.
De Merode said: “For Virunga to be safely visited, much more robust measures are necessary than in the past.”
To this end, the park has hired a specialist security firm to audit their security measures, and will also hire additional security staff to strengthen their team.
De Merode added: “This has been a profoundly difficult decision for me, and carries with it enormous disappointment for all those that invested such hope in the extraordinary impact that tourism was having on peoples’ lives around Virunga.”