Ranger Rachel, the heroine who died in bid to save Britons from jungle bandits
THIS is the first picture of the female park ranger who died trying to protect two British tourists as they were kidnapped by jungle bandits in the Congo.
Rachel Katumwa, 25, was shot dead at the Virunga National Park, a renowned sanctuary for gorillas. Described as ‘a devoted conservationist’, she is understood to be the first female ranger to be killed in the remote rainforest, which has been plagued by violence.
The holidaymakers – a couple in their 40s or 50s who have not yet been named – were visiting the park on Friday with Ms Katumwa and their Congolese driver when they were ambushed by the armed gang.
The Britons had been on their way to hike up Mount Nyiragongo. Tourists trek for around six hours to the 11,380ft summit, which holds the world’s largest lava lake.
Last night, soldiers and rangers were scouring the area to locate the Britons and their driver. The kidnappers are said to have issued a £147,000 ransom demand.
Faustin Muhindo, a mountain guide who takes tourists to the volcano’s summit, said: ‘Their vehicle was ambushed and Rachel was shot. The tourists and the driver were taken somewhere into the forest.
‘Rachel was totally dedicated to our conservation work with the gorillas and other wildlife. She was married to her job.’
He said the tourists were staying at Mikeno, a luxury thatched lodge inside Virunga where guests pay £350 a night to stay in bungalows made of lava stone and mahogany.
One park employee said Miss Katumwa was ‘a devoted conservationist who died in the line of duty’, adding: ‘Her only thought would have been the safety and security of visitors.’
A Foreign Office spokesman said: ‘Our staff are providing support to the families.’
Up to 175 rangers have been killed protecting Virunga and the Foreign Office warns travellers not to visit the region.
DEVOTED TO HER JOB: Rachel Katumwa in her park ranger uniform