The largest population of mountain gorillas in the world has grown to four times the size of its once-dwindling number, as poaching has become virtually non-existent in the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The numbers have gradually increased from around 250 about 30 years ago to 1000 now, thanks to efforts to protect them from poachers. Only one has been poached since 2007.
The Viunga foundation a UK based charity, set up in 2005 has created a good atmosphere in the area by building schools and facilitating businesses and also run a $22 million hydroelectric project in the area which provides power and jobs. These investments have yielded tangible benefits to the people of North Kivu.
The foundation also boosted the salaries of park rangers to $200 a month, which is eight times the average salary in DR Congo – to reduce the temptation for corruption.
Much credit must go to Chief Warden of Virunga National Park; Emmanuel de Merode.
Anthropologist, conservationist, pilot, Emmanuel worked to control the bushmeat trade and protect endangered wildlife in Central and Eastern Africa. His main focus has been support for African wildlife rangers in remote and difficult national parks and reserves. His work was primarily in the parks of eastern DRC, working to sustain the national parks through the DRC’s 15-year civil war.
In 2008 he was appointed by Congolese Government as Director for Virunga National Park. 360 rangers fall under his command and much of his work is focused on protecting the park’s exceptional wildlife, that include a critically important population of Mountain gorillas, elephants, okapis and chimpanzees.
Don't let them drill for oil in Virunga!