A personal note from Emmanuel de Merode

Dear Friends,

As 2016 draws to a close, I want to take a moment to thank you for your enduring support of Virunga’s rangers who are committed to defending the park at all costs.

It means everything to our rangers to know that they have friends around the world that recognize and support their efforts to protect the park’s unique wildlife, including the endangered mountain gorilla and elephant populations. So, on behalf of all the rangers, thank you for your kind efforts.

I want to briefly update you on our broader work to safeguard the park and improve the livelihoods of the millions of Congolese who live within a day’s walk of Virunga. The Virunga Alliance; our sustainable development initiative, has made significant progress this year, creating the foundations for building a real green economy in North Kivu, which both safeguards the Park and supports local communities.

The welfare of Virunga’s wildlife and human populations are inextricably tied, which is why I’m thrilled to report that in 2016 we were able to:

Inaugurate eastern Congo’s first major run of river micro hydro plant, thanks to the help of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. The 12.6 MW plant delivers clean energy to a province which has until now had almost no electrification.

Connect 1600 households to our renewable energy grid. For the first time, these families are discovering the benefits of electricity, which means parents can now cook meals quickly on hot-plates without having to spend hours collecting firewood, schoolchildren can review their lessons after dark, and cell phones can easily be charged.

Break ground on Lubero, a second 13MW hydroelectric power plant on the Park’s western flank.

Launch a sewing workshop run by, and for, the widows of rangers killed in action. In addition to increasing their income, the widows are learning a valuable skill.

Add 114 new rangers to our ranks, including 13 female rangers. This brings the total number of rangers in uniform to 600, of which 26 are women.

We have, unfortunately, suffered hard losses as well – five rangers were killed in the line of duty during 2016 and their sacrifices weigh heavy on us.

I’m pleased to report that a detailed veterinary assessment confirmed that Virunga’s mountain gorilla population is in excellent health. In fact, we have confirmed that the number of gorillas has actually increased. We will have to wait for the results from a genetic analysis to determine the exact rate of increase, but the numbers are looking very promising. The only recorded deaths in 2016 were attributed to a set of twins that passed away from natural causes within hours of birth.

Virunga’s hippo and elephant population did equally well in 2016. There were no elephants killed this year, due in part to the use of GPS collars which allow our rangers to better protect them. Our survey data shows that the park’s hippo population is on the rise; a strong indicator of the health of Lake Edward and a thriving hippo population which in turn encourages a strong fish yield for the fishing communities to harvest, consume and sell.

These are just a handful of the achievements that your support has contributed to and we’re very proud of all of our staff in working so hard this year. We plan for more progressed in 2017 and would be delighted to share the news with you when we can.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy a safe and happy holiday and thank you for continuing to include Virunga in your giving plans.

Yours faithfully,

Emmanuel de Merode




  1. Jeanine Finley December 23, 2016 Reply

    so happy to hear of the great progress! Keep doing god’s work. Prayers and blessings to you all for all you do!

  2. Valery Willis December 23, 2016 Reply

    I am full of admiration for the wonderful work done by all of you to protect these precious animals. Five of your number were sadly killed in the line of duty. Thank you for continuing to be true guardians.

  3. Gail December 23, 2016 Reply

    Wonderful to hear of the good things happening, especially the increased number of gorillas, which could not happen without the protection you give them. Awesome work by all, and I wish all the rangers a safe and peaceful 2017

  4. Eike Christian Mueller December 29, 2016 Reply

    Emmanuel, you are leading a great army of soldiers to protect this amazing part of the world. Sorry for this military language, my guess is, you and your brave team are facing enormous obstacles, even armed opponents, so I wanted to keep my words straight forward.
    I am considering my first visit to DRC, Ug in 2017/2018. Be ready to host a German in your Virunga Park 🙂

    All the best from Munich & take care

    Best Regards
    Eike C Mueller

  5. Cyndi Johnson February 4, 2017 Reply

    Congratulations for all the successes of 2016. And my deepest condolences for your brave ranger losses. Continued prayers for all the Congolese people and wildlife . May God bless and keep you all. Keep up the great work that you do. I am in awe of all of Virunga parks accomplishments and bravery.

  6. kimalyo Stephen February 8, 2017 Reply

    Hi Emma thank you for all your efforts at vilunga , keep it up send a response back I am still alive here in kampala

  7. Jon Winchester February 11, 2017 Reply

    I just watched Virunga on Netflix and was moved by the dedication of you and your team who sacrifice so much to save these beautiful creatures. I am one of those selfish human beings who just carries on with his daily life while you and your team are so selfless, and you are all beautiful people. In the film Virunga one of your team said he wasn’t special, how wrong he is. He’s very special, as you all are.

    I have signed up to your site, sent a small donation and soon will set up monthly donations. I hope this will offset my selfishness and ignorance. With love and respect to you all.

    Jon – UK

  8. Ana Lezcano March 8, 2017 Reply

    I do believe the work you and your rangers do on a daily basis is Remarkable and beyond BRAVE! God has a special place in heaven for people like yourselves. Keep up the Amazing work you and I hope one day, be able to visit your extraordinary park.

    Ana, Miami, FL. USA

  9. Gorilla Tours May 19, 2017 Reply

    A great thanks to him for protecting these gorillas while risking his own life.

  10. Rwanda Tours June 2, 2017 Reply

    Great Job he has done! Gorilla conservation is slowly becoming a success.

  11. Liz November 5, 2017 Reply

    i’ve just read the article in the timed and think your work is truly incredible and necessary. Our planet and its wildlife needs constant protection, thank you for your bravery and courage in a world that desperately needs it.

  12. Liz November 5, 2017 Reply

    i’ve just read the article in the timed and think your work is truly incredible and necessary. Our planet and its wildlife needs constant protection, thank you for your bravery and courage in a world that desperately needs it.

  13. anne von der Becke November 25, 2017 Reply

    Bonjour Monsieur de Merode,

    Je suis la nièce de Jan-Pierre von der Becke, qui fut conservateur du Parc du Virunge quelques années avant vous. Lors de son décès je me suis promise d’un jour aller sur place pour encore mieux apprécier ce qu’il a fait pour le parc et les gorilles de montagne.
    Fin Février j’ai enfin l’occasion d’aller au Virunga via l’Ouganda avec ma famille.
    Je voulais savoir si vous avez des avis à me donner, des choses à faire ou ne pas faire.
    Je vous remercie d’oredset déjà pour votre réponse et pour tout ce que vous réalisez pour ce coin du monde et notre patrimoine animale.


    Anne von der Becke

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