The thoughts and best wishes of all of us at Sea Shepherd Conservation Society are now with Emmanuel de Merode, Chief Warden at Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Emmanuel, the husband of Sea Shepherd Advisory Board Member and Paleontologist Dr. Louise Leakey, was shot during an ambush on Tuesday within the park. He remains in stable condition, and we are hopeful that this remarkably strong individual will make a speedy and complete recovery.
Emmanuel is an inspiration to us all, with his uncompromising commitment to conservation and the protection of the Virunga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and all of the species that call it home. Despite the constant threat of violence from poachers and others who would harm this important ecosystem, he has risked his own life to protect wildlife and their habitat.
An anthropologist, Emmanuel de Merode has been Chief Warden of Virunga National Park since 2008 when he was appointed by the Congolese government. He has stood in brave defense of the park against those who seek to pillage it for oil or poach the threatened animals who live there. It is unknown at this time who shot him. Indeed, Emmanuel himself has said he has no indication as to who may have engineered the attack upon him, and he respectfully asks that everyone please refrain from speculation prior to the findings of the formal inquiry.
Emmanuel has also led the fight against bushmeat, forest destruction, and encouraged the use of sustainable energy. Virunga National Park is home to many of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, as well as a large population of other animals, including hippopotamuses and elephants. “Virunga,” a documentary about the brave protectors of Virunga National Park has just debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival. Emmanuel is featured in the film, along with the park rangers who carry out this important but dangerous work.
We at Sea Shepherd know firsthand the risks involved in defending Mother Nature from her many enemies. Recent reports reveal more than 900 conservationists have been killed as a direct result of their work defending the environment in just the last decade. We are thankful for Emmanuel and all of the amazing conservationists and activists around the world who accept these risks. Even now, as violence against these unsung heroes increases, we stand with them in the battle against extinction for so many species.