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MISSION VIRUNGA

A new airplane for the Virunga National Park

About the project

In 2014 I did something that caused my whole entourage to think I lost my mind: I flew over an airplane from Belgium to the Virunga National Park in eastern Congo, together with three young doctors. Flying Doctors, the adventure of a lifetime. At least, that’s what I thought. The real adventure had yet to begin; upon arrival, the prince and park director Emmanuel de Merode asked me to work for him as a pilot. Our Belgian airplane was going to be used as a medical evacuation aircraft.  I had to evacuate the park rangers, who were the target of poachers and rebels. Until recently, I flew over our park to track hunted elephants, transport orphan monkeys and provide supplies for remote areas.

After three years of working as a chief pilot, I crashed with my plane. My two passengers, bystanders and I survived the crash. Unfortunately, Our Cessna 206 did not. 

I was immediately transferred to Belgium, where I am still undergoing several surgeries. I want to go back to Virunga as soon as possible and start flying again. Not because I do not like Belgium, but because I lost my heart in the national park. I am determined to continue my mission there. All I need is a plane.

What are the funds for?

The Virunga National Park needs my help to fight poaching, and for that I need an airplane.
The money (€125,000) will be used to buy a new airplane for the Virunga National Park.

About the project owner

My life could not have changed more the past few years. From the safe tarmac in Wevelgem to a far less safe homebase – and that’s an understatement. During a rebel assault, I did not only lose fellow park rangers, but also some dear friends. I was given the honour to use my Cessna 206 to bring their bodies back home to their families.

Virunga, a beautiful piece of African nature, is still a breeding ground for everyone who wants to profit from its wealth. Beside rebels, the park is also confronted with illegal fishermen and poachers. Every day I patrol in operations that battle poaching, which resulted in not a single elephant being hunted and killed at the Virunga Park last year. Our Cessna must have made a deep impression on the poachers.

My plane brought baby monkey Pinga (from Flying Doctors 2) to its new home, it brings park rangers to where they are needed most, and it helps to save the last elephants of Virunga.  To contribute to the preservation of the oldest national park of Africa, is a feeling that I could never experience in Belgium. And that is why I want to return to Congo as soon as possible. I want to continue protecting my park and finish the work I started.

The Virunga Belgium Foundation is committed to maintaining the welfare in Virunga National Park.

For more information, please visit our website https://virunga.org 

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