Virunga National Park re-opens

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Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park re-opened after a deadly ambush of a tourist group saw it closed last year over security fears, the park’s director said.

Virunga is on the forest-cloaked volcanoes of central Africa and home to over half the global population of mountain gorillas.

It was closed after two Britons and their Congolese driver were kidnapped last May by gunmen. They were released three days later, but a ranger was killed trying to defend them.

“We have taken enough time to be sure of an improvement in security for visitors,” Virunga’s director Emmanuel Demerode told Reuters.

The park reopened to tourists on February 15, he said.

It is Africa’s oldest national park and largest tropical rainforest reserve, covering 7,800 sq km.

Warfare in eastern Congo between 1996 and 2003 killed millions of people, mainly through hunger and disease. Since tourism was relaunched in 2014 Virunga has had over 17,000 visitors.

Armed militia still control large swathes of territory in and around it and more than 175 rangers have died protecting the park.

“We continue to work on putting security of our personnel and visitors at the core of our operations,” Demerode said.