In Congo, Parks depend on the Common Man – and Woman

Cody Pope's (WWF) photo of ranger in dugout
The Abraham ceremony recognizes that it is the actions of mortal men that hold immortal treasures on into future generations. Photo of Cody Pope of WWF_ Salonga National Park.

All listened quietly: five ambassadors, an army general, the Congolese Minister of the Environment, a top visiting official from Washington DC…. The testimonies were read. Seven gave their lives in the service of Congo’s parks. Five were wounded, but still work for nature conservation in Congo. And four, over the past year, have grasped the conservation challenge and pushed their parks to greater safety. We all listened.

full house
It was an attentive audience.

It is the sixth Abraham Conservation Ceremony in Congo. Now, seven years after the end of war, there is still no calm for the parks where outlaw bands seek gold, ivory, bushmeat or just hide from justice. The widows of guards killed by an outlaw band in the okapi reserve told their horrific stories. Their husbands burned, dismembered…

Epulu river and widows The Epulu River with inset of two widows receiving awards from the ambassadors of France and Belgium.

Two guards shot in the forest while attacking that same band are healed and now back in uniform to secure the Okapi Reserve.

Ramazani Swing_Mn MECNT
Ramazani Swing (Okapi Reserve) receives a medal from the Minister of the Environment.

Atamato and widow
The late chief warden of the Upemba National Park, Atamato Madrandele, was gunned-down by Maimai rebels. His wife accepted his medal.

Nyamulagira_Katya with Virunga heros
A colonel of the army and a warden of the Parks Institute both received medals for their initiative, steadfastness and defiance of danger in service of Virungas National Park.

chef Elenge and German Amb
Chief Elenge from Kahuzi Biega solemnly declared that after years of opposition to Kahuzi Biega National Park, he and his people are ready to collaborate for a peaceful building of the park. Chief accepts his reward from the German Ambassador.

A last commemoration was made of the horrific abduction and rape of 24 women and girls by the criminal band that attacked the Okapi Reserve in June 2012. Some have escaped, others are still in captivity. At the time of abduction two were only 12 years old, one was 13 years old and four were fourteen years old. One of the women and the husband of a mother still in captivity stood to represent all the women and thank Nancy and other donors who have come together with a fund to ease the girls back into school and the women into their homes.

final picture
In the final photo Mignonne Nasato and Tapi Mustafa each hold a bronze plate with the inscribed names of all the abducted women.

More about Congo’s conservation hero’s 2013 can be read in the brochure:
Brochure Abraham 2013

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