The Fallen Rangers Fund was created this year to support the families of park rangers who have given their lives to protect highly endangered mountain gorillas and other species in the Democratic Republic of Congo. More than 150 rangers have been killed in the past 15 years in clashes with rebel forces operating inside Virunga National Park.

Virunga is Africa’s oldest national park and has more species of birds, reptiles and mammals than any other protected area in the Africa. It is home to about a quarter of the estimated 700 Mountain Gorillas left in the world.

Ranger funeral procession. Credit: Dirck Byler

Credit: Dirck Byler/USFWS

Despite decades of civil war, the park's gorilla population remains relatively stable. This success is due largely to the dedication of park rangers who have patrolled the park, often for little or no pay and under life-threatening conditions. Due to their strong commitment, tourism inside the park has been on the rise, helping the region stabilize and further develop.

While the rangers are willing to put their lives on the line, their greatest fear is leaving their widows and children destitute. At $30 per month for each family, the Wildlife Without Borders Fallen Rangers Fund will provide a small but critical financial safety net for these families.

USFWS has committed $132,764 to the Wildlife Without Borders Fallen Rangers Fund, leveraging $130,040 in matching contributions. The initial goal is to help the widows and children of the 150 fallen rangers of Virunga National Park. Over time, it is anticipated that the program will be expanded to other parks where rangers put their lives on the line to protect some of the world’s most endangered animals.