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Head of oldest African park shot

Emmanuel de Merode, Virunga National Park director, poses at the park headquarters in Rumangabo on 11 August 2012Emmanuel de Merode worked in an area where many armed groups and poachers operate

The Belgian director of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s famous Virunga National Park has been shot and seriously wounded in an ambush.

Emmanuel de Merode’s vehicle came under fire as he was travelling from the eastern city of Goma to the town of Rumangabo, according to a statement issued by the park.

Some of eastern DR Congo’s numerous armed groups are based in the park.

More than 130 park rangers have been killed in Virunga since 1996.

Lawless region

Mr De Merode was shot in the chest, North Kivu Provincial Governor Julien Paluku told AFP news agency.

“He’s in a stable but critical condition,” the park said on its Twitter account.

Mr De Merode was driving unescorted from Goma to Rumangabo when gunmen ambushed his vehicle, according to Mr Paluku.

Goma is about 30km (20 miles) from Rumangabo, the headquarters of Virunga National Park.

The park – Africa’s oldest – is home to 480 of the world’s 790 remaining mountain gorillas.

It is one of the most ecologically diverse places on Earth and is on the UN list of World Heritage sites in danger.

The east of the Democratic Republic of Congo is a mostly lawless region, hit by conflict between the government and various armed groups.

Rumangabo – about 50km (30 miles) north of Goma, the main city in the east – had one of the three biggest military bases in the country before it fell to the rebels last year,

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