Remembering a Heroic Gorilla Guardian

Craig R. Sholley

A young mountain gorilla in Virunga. Photo by Maryke Gray

Attacks on park staff, rangers, and scouts are always deeply disturbing to me.  These true friends of wildlife and champions of conservation are on the frontlines securing parks, guarding wildlife, and protecting people living around wildlife.

Sunday’s attack, on Virunga National Park rangers by Rwandan FDLR militias—where one ranger was shot and killed and two injured—is the latest in a long history of rangers risking, and losing, their lives to protect treasured wildlife. More than 140 of Virunga’s rangers have lost their lives since 1996, but they continue to resolutely protect the park, and its population of mountain gorillas.

This is an area that is home to arguably the most endangered great apes in the world and DRC rangers continue to put their lives on the line on a daily basis. We owe a deb of gratitude to these wildlife heroes.

To Mbera Bagabo, who was killed on Sunday, January 12, while protecting the park and public from illegal groups, his family, and his colleagues in Virunga, we say words are not enough to express our gratitude and our deepest condolences. 

Learn more about the heroic mountain gorilla rangers in Virunga.

About the Author

Craig's experiences with wildlife and conservation began in 1973 as a Peace Corps volunteer in Zaire. As an L.S.B. Leakey grant researcher in the late 1970s, Craig studied mountain gorillas with Dian Fossey and, in 1987, became director of Rwanda's Mountain Gorilla Project, of which African Wildlife Foundation was a sponsor. Craig has acted as Scientific Advisor for the award-winning IMAX film, "Mountain Gorilla," and with National Geographic, he surveyed the conservation status of mountain gorillas in the aftermath of Rwanda's civil war. Craig’s direct involvement with AWF began as a Senior Associate and member of AWF’s Board of Trustees. He became a full-time employee of AWF in 2001 and now serves as the organization's Senior Vice President.