Emmanuel de Merode

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Emmanuel de Merode in 2013

Prince Emmanuel Werner Marie Ghislain de Merode (born 5 May 1970) has been the director of the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) since 2008.


Crest of Prince Emmanuel de Merode

Emmanuel was born in North Africa, at Carthage, Tunisia. He is the second son of Charles, the Prince de Merode, and of his wife, born Princess Hedwige de Ligne. His parents[1] belong to two of Belgium's historically most ancient and influential families, the Merodes and the House of Ligne. He descends patrilineally from Félix, Count de Merode, a military commander during the successful Belgian Revolution of 1830 who helped form the first Belgian legislative counsel and government. His mother's branch of the Lignes are also the heirs to a French princely family, the House of La Trémoille: His uncle is Charles-Antoine, Prince de Ligne de La Trémoïlle.

Emmanuel de Merode does not use his hereditary title in professional contexts; however, he is legally a prince in the Belgian nobility, the title having been conferred upon the family by King Albert I in 1929.[2] His elder brother, Prince Frédéric de Merode[3], is married and heir to his father's multiple titles.[4]


The Prince de Merode's sons grew up outside Nairobi in Kenya and Emmanuel studied at the Banda School, followed by Downside School and Durham University in the United Kingdom. Emmanuel earned a PhD in Anthropology from University College, London (UCL), having concentrated on Congolese conservation issues. He has lived in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly known as the Zaire) since 1993, currently residing in Rumangabo, Virunga's National Park's headquarters.


Anthropologist, conservationist and pilot, Emanuel de Merode has striven to control the bushmeat trade and protect endangered wildlife in Central and Eastern Africa. His main focus has been on supporting the work of African wildlife rangers in conflict affected areas by driving economic development in partnership with local communities. His work was primarily in the parks of eastern DRC, working to sustain the national parks through the DRC's 20-year civil war. Merode is the author of fourteen scientific papers and co-editor of the book Virunga: The Survival of Africa's First National Park.[5]

On 1 August 2008, he was appointed Director of Virunga National Park by the Congolese government. After swearing allegiance to the Congolese flag, he became the only foreign national to exercise judicial powers in the war torn central African nation. He now lives at the park headquarters in Rumangabo, bordering the park's mountain gorilla sector.[6] The park's 680 rangers are under his direction and much of his work is focused on protecting the park's exceptional wildlife, including critically important populations of mountain gorillas, elephants, okapis and chimpanzees. His first breakthrough[7] was to broker an agreement between the Congolese government and rebel leader Laurent Nkunda to spare the mountain gorilla sector of the park from the rages of the ongoing civil war and to enable government rangers to redeploy in rebel territory. Negotiating the neutral status of environmental and sustainable development imperatives among the warring factions in eastern Congo became a recurring theme in de Merode's approach to establishing Virunga National Park as a stabilizing presence in the war-affected Great Lakes Region of Africa.

Given the chronic insecurity and the succession of violent wars in eastern Congo, Merode and a team of over 3000 conservationists and development practitioners have focused their efforts on economic development initiatives in a large-scale attempt to bring greater stability to the region. In 2013 he assisted in the launching of the Virunga Alliance [8] in an effort to drive the post-war economy of eastern Congo as an instrument for peace-building in the region. The initiative is based on 127 local institutions from the private sector, civil society and government agencies committing to the sustainable development of the parks resources, through tourism, rural electrification through clean energy, sustainable fisheries and agriculture. A major program aims to generate 80 to 100,000 jobs in the post-war communities around the national park, providing young Congolese men and women viable alternatives to engaging in conflict related activities.

At his swearing in ceremony, Merode remarked, "The intensity of the conflict in and around the park makes this a daunting challenge, but it is a great privilege to be working alongside such a dedicated and courageous team of rangers. I have real confidence in our ability to secure a future for the park to ensure that it makes a positive contribution to the lives of the people of North Kivu." His role in maintaining the Park's administration during the M23 Rebellion was covered in the oscar-nominated British documentary Virunga.

He has spoken about his work and the work of the rangers of Virunga in a TEDxWWF talk, "A story of conflict, renewal and hope".[9] Under his leadership, the Virunga park opened to the public again in 2014.[10]

Assassination attempt[edit]

On April 15, 2014 Emmanuel de Merode was critically injured by unidentified gunmen during an ambush on the road between Goma and Rumangabo, hours after a meeting with the state prosecutor.[11] It was reported that, during this meeting, Merode submitted a report on the park's 4-year enquiry in the actions of an oil-company alleged to be illegally exploring for oil in Virunga National Park[12]. He was shot several times in the chest and abdomen, but survived and was able to leave the scene of the attack with the help of local residents.[13][14] Emergency surgery was performed at a local hospital in Goma. A legal enquiry into the motives and identity of the attackers was undertaken by the Congolese authorities. Media reports have cited various suspects, including those engaged in the illegal production of charcoal, people associated with SOCO International, a British oil company engaged in the exploration for oil in the national park, opponents of the park's law enforcement activities, disgruntled local residents, and those engaged in struggles to control park lands including, at the time, factions of the National Congress of the Defense of People (CNDP) and of the Congolese military.[15]

Merode returned to Virunga National Park on the 22nd of May 2014 to resume his functions as Park Director.[16]

Personal life[edit]

Merode married[17] Louise Leakey in 2003, a paleontologist from Kenya. They have two daughters:

  • Princess Ina Seiyia de Merode (born 2004)
  • Princess Alexia Maeve de Merode (born 2006)[18]

Honours and titles[edit]

For his efforts, de Merode has received several international awards. Among others, including public recognition from Philippe, King of the Belgians,[19] Albert, Prince of Monaco, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Princess Marie-Esméralda of Belgium.[20]


International recognition[edit]


  • Macmillan (2005) Protected areas and decentralisation in the Democratic Republic of Congo: a case for devolving responsibility to local institutions (in Rural Resources and Local Livelihoods in Africa, Edited by Katherine Homewood). Emmanuel de Merode
  • Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. B (2004) Volume 271, pages 2631–2636[permanent dead link] Do wildlife laws work? Species protection and the application of a prey choice model to poaching decisions. Marcus Rowcliffe, Emmanuel de Merode and Guy Cowlishaw.
  • Biological Conservation (2003) Volume 118, Issue 5, Pages 573-581 The value of bushmeat and other wild foods to rural households living in extreme poverty in Democratic Republic of Congo. Emmanuel de Merode, Katherine Homewood and Guy Cowlishaw
  • Overseas Development Institute Wildlife Policy Series (2003) Volume 1 Wild resources and livelihoods of poor households in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Emmanuel de Merode, Katherine Homewood & Guy Cowlishaw.
  • International Journal of Remote Sensing (2000) Volume 21, Numbers 13-14, pages 2665-2683 The spatial correlates of wildlife distribution around Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo. De Merode E, K. Hillman-Smith, A. Nicholas, A. Ndey, M. Likango.
  • Earthscan Publications (1999) Promoting Partnerships: Managing Wildlife Resources in Central and West Africa. J. Abbot, F. Ananze, N. Barning, P. Burnham, E. de Merode, A. Dunn, E. Fuchi, E. Hakizumwami, C. Hesse, R. Mwinyihali, M.M. Sani, D. Thomas, P. Trench, R. Tshombe
  • WWF sustainable development series, (1999) Towards Financial Sustainability for Protected Areas: learning from business approaches. A. Inamdar, E. de Merode
  • PhD Thesis, University of London (1998) Protected Areas and Local Livelihoods: Contrasting Systems of Wildlife Management in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • PLA Notes (1998) Volume 33, Pages 27-33 Participatory GIS: opportunity or oxymoron. Jo Abbot, Robert Chambers, Christine Dunn, Trevor Harris, Emmanuel de Merode, Gina Porter, Janet Townsend and Daniel Weiner
  • Pachyderm (1995) Volume 19, pages 39–48 Factors affecting elephant distribution at Garamba National Park and surrounding reserves, Zaïre, with focus on human elephant conflict. Hillman Smith, A. K. K., E. de Merode, A. Nicholas, B. Buls, and A. Ndey.


  1. ^ Paul Theroff. "Merode". Angelfire.com. Retrieved 2014-04-21.
  2. ^ Hueck, Walter von, ed. (1991). Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels Fürstliche Häuser Band XIV (in German). Limburg an der Lahn: C. A. Starke.
  3. ^ http://www.thecandideye.co.uk/blog/2014/4/17/challenges-of-conservation-on-a-grand-scale picture of Prince Emmanuel and Prince Frederic
  4. ^ http://www.angersmag.info/Leurs-vies-de-chateau-Serrant-conte-de-femmes-pas-de-fees-3-6_a7484.html
  5. ^ "virungafund.org". virungafund.org. Retrieved 2014-04-21.
  6. ^ "Interview With Emmanuel de Merode, Director of Virunga National Park – National Geographic Blog". blog.nationalgeographic.org. Retrieved 2017-12-20.
  7. ^ "Special Report: Congo's Mountain Gorillas - National Geographic Adventure Magazine". Adventure.nationalgeographic.com. Retrieved 2014-04-21.
  8. ^ "Virunga Alliance". virunga.org. 2014-04-11. Retrieved 2014-04-21.
  9. ^ "TEDxWWF - Emmanuel De Merode: A Story of Conflict Renewal & Hope". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-04-21.
  10. ^ Stokes, Elaisha (2014-02-24). "Virunga is open, ready for business | Al Jazeera America". America.aljazeera.com. Retrieved 2014-04-21.
  11. ^ "Who tried to kill the man who protects the Congo gorillas?". The Independent. 2014-04-20. Retrieved 2017-12-20.
  12. ^ Fletcher, Martin (2014-09-06). "Battle for Virunga: The fight to save Africa's oldest national park". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2017-09-18.
  13. ^ "Belgian Emmanuel de Merode shot in DR Congo ambush". BBC News. 16 April 2014. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  14. ^ "Emmanuel de Mérode, le directeur du parc des Virunga, blessé dans une attaque | Monde". lesoir.be. 2014-04-16. Retrieved 2014-04-21.
  15. ^ Jack Kahorha (April 18, 2014). "Warden Wounded in Africa's Oldest National Park Had Enemies". nationalgeographic.com. Retrieved January 27, 2015.
  16. ^ Abe Streep (5 November 2014). "The Belgian Prince Taking Bullets to Save the World's Most Threatened Park". Outsideonline.com. Retrieved January 27, 2015.
  17. ^ "Exploring Human Origins". The Archaeology Channel. 2007-05-01. Retrieved 2014-04-21.
  18. ^ The Leakeys: A Biography - Mary Bowman-Kruhm - Google Boeken. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2014-04-21.
  19. ^ https://www.monarchie.be/nl/agenda/wereldpatrimonium-in-afrika
  20. ^ http://cinetelerevue.be/fr/esmeralda-de-belgique-virunga-est-un-tresor-pour-l-humanite.html?cmp_id=7&news_id=39562
  21. ^ "CV de Merode". ukc.ac.uk.
  22. ^ mal. "Eredoctoraat voor Emmanuel De Merode aan UHasselt". Het Belang van Limburg.
  23. ^ UHasselt. Lezing Emmanuel de Merode. 27 May 2015. (retrieved 24 October 2015)
  24. ^ Numac : 2015015098
  25. ^ http://www.newswise.com/articles/stony-brook-to-confer-honorary-degree-to-actor-philanthropist-michael-j-fox
  26. ^ https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/safariandwildlifeholidays/12014333/Tusk-Conservation-Awards-2015-winners.html
  27. ^ http://www.nationalgeographic.nl/artikel/rangers-van-virunga-explorers-van-het-jaar
  28. ^ http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/1355/
  29. ^ http://www.benzinga.com/pressreleases/16/08/m8352255/emmanuel-de-merode-anthony-caere-of-congos-virunga-national-park-to-rec
  30. ^ https://www.zsl.org/conservation/news/zsl-conservation-awards-2013

External links[edit]