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
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.