The most dangerous place to be a park ranger

This photo was taken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Virunga National Park, where the Nyamulagira volcano is currently erupting. The man in the photo is named Romeo. No last name given, and I can't help but wonder if that's for the same reason that he carries a rather large gun.

Romeo is a park ranger in Virunga. It's a very dangerous job. Virunga has lost more park rangers than any other protected site on Earth. That's due to several factors. For one thing, men like Romeo are in charge of protecting the Park's gorillas and other endangered wildlife from poachers. For another, political instability leaks into Virunga on a relatively regular basis. Back in January, three rangers and five Congolese soldiers were killed by members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). Virunga borders Rwanda and members of this militia try to use the park as a hideout. In the process, they clear-cut the forest for charcoal. The January attack was thought to be in retaliation for rangers destroying a couple FDLR camps and cracking down on illegal forest destruction.

In fact, the job is dangerous enough that one of the fundraising campaigns the park is promoting is a program to care for the widows of dead rangers. You can donate online.

Who are the guys that put their lives on the line for a national park and a bunch of great apes? The park website also has some short statements by several of the rangers. Romeo isn't among them. But you can get an idea of who these guys are, and why they chose this job.

Surprisingly, despite all that, large parts of Virunga are safe enough for tourists. According to Wikipedia, the park gets 3000 visitors a year.

Via Brendan Maher


  1. Also, he has to protect the park from Balrog poachers. It takes a pretty tough dude to work in a place where regular volcano eruptions are one of the least dangerous aspects of the job.

  2. All the African parks are dangerous.  When I visited the Ngorogo Crater park in Tanzania, there was a monument to all the park rangers who were killed on duty there.  

  3. “Surprisingly, despite all that, large parts of Virunga are safe enough for tourists. According to Wikipedia, the park gets 3000 visitors a year.”
    One of those visitors being Douglas Adams – he went trekking through the Virungas with Mark Carwardine in the 80’s. It’s chronicled in “Last Chance to See,” a book entirely worth reading.

  4. I don’t think he really needs a gun. If he can nonchalantly pose for a photo while a volcano spits out lava several hundred metres into the sky, then I’m fairly sure he could club poachers to death with his massive balls.

  5. I summitted Mt. Nyiragongo, the most active volcano with the largest permanent lava lake in the world,  in Virunga National Park in 2010. We were accompanied by several guys like this.

    Please see a short timelapsed video of my trip.

  6. Is there some kind of atmospheric effect at play that I don’t understand, or is this one of the worst Photoshop jobs ever?  I mean – there’s a big ol’ gap between the mountain and the lava eruption…

  7. this is definetly photoshoped! doesn’t even touch the mountains..and the atmospheric perspective is off….the mountains are dulled but the lava is super bright..ANNND theirs no way you could be standing when that lave is shooting out …that high… no way! Its fake. 

    No question he’s still a brave dude, even a little lava would scare the shit outta me.  but i think “photo” isn’t the right word to describe this image. 

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