布朗克斯野生物保育協會研究員普朗特（Dr. Andrew Plumptre）指出：「顯而易見的，如果剛果共和國能體認到這座國家公園未來所能帶來的觀光旅遊收益，將需要投注心力來妥善維護它，同樣地，由於大型哺乳類數量已明顯上揚，今後國家公園巡手隊將更需持續投入保育巡邏工作。」
Numbers of elephants and other large mammals have increased in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Virunga National Park since the last census three years ago, conservation groups in the United States and DRC report. The most recent census was conducted between June 9 and 12 by researchers from the national conservation agency of the DRC, and from the Wildlife Conservation Society based at New York's Bronx Zoo.
Funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the census found that efforts to protect the park’s wildlife appear to be succeeding in reversing a steep decline in numbers of large mammals due to poaching and armed conflict that claimed nearly four million human lives since 1995. The researchers give credit for the animals' recovery to the anti-poaching efforts of park guards who patrol this World Heritage Site at great personal risk.
Efforts to curb poaching have come at a high cost. Since 1996, more than 100 park guards in Virunga National Park have been killed while trying to prevent poaching, and one was killed as recently as May.
Currently, park guards receive only $1 per month as a salary from the DRC government, although this amount was increased to $30 per month with funds from UNESCO from 2002-2005.
Established in 1925, Virunga National Park once had the highest density of large mammals in the world before a wave of unrest and poaching descended upon the region.
Since the 1960s, the park’s populations of elephants, hippos, and buffalos have plummeted, with the heaviest levels of poaching occurring in 1980s and during the past 10 years since the beginning of the DRC's civil war in 1996.
Virunga National Park has been the major destination for tourists in the DRC since it was created, but unrest over the past decade has resulted in a decrease in tourism dollars as well as wildlife.
Tourism in the region has the potential to generate significant revenues for the parks and the country. In Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, the tourism business has generated millions of dollars, not only for parks but also for local communities throughout the region.
"It is clear that Congo needs to invest in the future of this park if they are to realize any of the benefits of tourism in future. It is also clear that park guards will need continued support if the park is to show an increase in the large mammal populations in future," said Dr. Andrew Plumptre of the Wildlife Conservation Society.