By Ranger Sekibibi Bareke.
Recently, our Chief Warden of the Southern Sector, Innocent Mburanumwe received a call from the head of the Jomba patrol post, who said that villagers had killed three buffalo that were pillaging their sorghum crops. I pulled together a team of five rangers and we headed to the scene of the incident. Getting there quickly was very important because the ranger in charge of the Jomba patrol post was all alone and having to face the crowd by himself.
The adult female buffalo and two calves that met their end while pillaging crops just outside the Virunga NP boundary.
When we arrived in Kinyangurube where the killings took place, we were met by a crowd of angry villagers. One of the buffalo had already been dragged off and butchered and they wanted to do the same with the remaining two. These situations are very delicate because the villagers have every right to be angry that their crops were destroyed. And, it’s not difficult to understand why they felt entitled to the buffalo meat as compensation for their loss. This is against the laws of Virunga National Park, though, and for good reason. If we rangers were to allow such animals to be taken by villagers, we know we would soon be faced with a rash “justified” wildlife killings. As we always do in situations like these, we gave a talk to the villagers about the rules of the park and how such rules are in the best interest of everyone living near the park boundary. Thankfully, the village leader supported us and echoed our points in a speech of his own.
The local village leader of Gisiza speaking to the crowd about why such killings are illegal and what to do differently next time animals raid their crops.
Naturally, not everyone was receptive to our talks and when we asked if we could bury the remaining buffalo nearby, several villagers demanded we bury them somewhere else. To keep the situation from escalating, we transported the two remaining buffalo to the Jomba patrol post and buried them there. Going forward, it is likely the park will need to protect this part of the Jomba area with an electric wildlife fence. The fence will also protect Virunga’s buffalo, forest elephant, and mountain gorillas from the sad fate these three buffalo faced. In the meantime, we will work on better outfitting our community volunteers with torches, tarpaulins, boots, and raincoats so they can bivouac near the crops and ward off wildlife.