|| M O U N T A I N G O R I L L A || The Virunga National Park contains the greatest biodiversity of any protected area in Africa.
Established in 1925 by King Albert I of Belgium, and thus formerly known as Albert National Park, Virunga was Africa’s first national park and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site for almost 40
years. And that level of protection, as well as the dedicated effort of the park’s rangers, has paid off.
More species of birds, reptiles and mammals can be found in Virunga than in any other African national park. And while it provides a safe area for forest elephants, okapi, giraffes and buffalos- to name but a few, it is the mountain gorillas which are the park’s heart and soul.
With only 880 mountain gorillas left in the wild (about a quarter of which can be found at Virunga), this species is in dire trouble. While conservation efforts have led to a population increase, the
remaining mountain gorillas are nowhere near safe. Inhabiting an area prone to human conflict,
gorillas have been caught in the crossfire for decades. They have seen civil wars sweeping through their forest as well as having been deliberately killed by those hoping their absence might lift the protection of this 7.800 square km piece of land.
The most recent threat to these gentle and shy creatures (and Virunga’s wildlife at large) comes directly from the Congolese government which is preparing plans to declassify 21.5 % of this World Heritage Site in order to open up parts of Virunga to oil exploration. I know that Africa might seem like a long way away for some of you, but I think that the name ‘WORLD HERITAGE SITE’ says it all- these are places we should all treasure and their protection should matter to all of us.
If you wish to find out more about @virunganationalpark and the lives of the amazing rangers who put their lives on the line to protect the park and its wildlife, particularly the mountain gorillas, I recommend you watch the TedX talk by the park’s director @emmanueldemerode or check out the 2014 documentary, Virunga, on @netflix.
You can also go to savevirunga.com to find out more or virunga.org to make a donation.