the stories of the women who work to keep the vulnerable
mountain gorilla population in Virunga National Park safe
The lush green forests of Congo's Virunga National Park are home to almost half of the world's endangered mountain gorillas. The species' global population hasdipped to less than 1,000, but in Virunga, numbers are on the rise.
This is thanks in part to the hard work of Congo's growing team of wildlife rangers, who regularly put their safety at risk to protect the gorillas and their habitat from poachers and violence between militias and the Congolese army. In the past 20 years, more than 150 park rangers have lost their lives on the job.
For decades, the esteemed job was only held by men. The first group of women to successfully complete the mandatory training became rangers in 2014, and now proudly serve to protect the 3,000 square-foot park and its furry inhabitants.
Photojournalist Monique Jaques traveled to Congo to capture the stories of these women bravely working to keep the vulnerable mountain gorilla population in Virunga National Park safe from harm. Check out her remarkable photos below, which are also featured on Wonderful Machine.
Rangers-in-training present themselves to the commanding officer each morning. For the first time, women have taken up the most dangerous job in wildlife, becoming paramilitary rangers at the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Virunga is Africa's oldest national park and home to over 200 of the world's 800 remaining mountain gorillas. For two decades it has been at the centre of a war. Hundreds of rebels operate in the park, and over 150 park rangers have died protecting it from them.
Rangers-in-training must complete personal training and exercises every day.
Female rangers-in-training complete the obstacle course, and each ranger's time is posted in the mess hall.
Aline, along with other rangers and park staff, visits the gorillas in the park's Mikeno sector.
A silverback gorilla lounges below a tree in Virunga National Park.
Rangers-in-training rehearse military drills in the savannah. Virunga's park guards' responsibilities eclipse those of a typical park guard, as conflicts between local rebel groups are known to break out in the area.
Light breaks through the clouds above Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Francine and Solange sit on the crest of a volcano, which is fogged over. When clear, the lava lake is visible.
After dark, the lava lake is visible through the fog.
Solange washes clothing during a rainstorm in front of her room. The house also has apartments for rangers' families.
By Jesselyn Cook, WorldPost Fellow
Photos by Monique Jaques via Wonderful Machine