By Michael Graham Richard
Mountain gorillas are critically endangered, with only around 800-900 individuals left in the wild. About 25% of those live in Virunga National Park, a 3,000 square miles UNESCO World Heritage site in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, near the borders of Rwanda and Uganda. In the fight for their survival, the gorillas face all kinds of threads, from diseases to poaching, to habitat loss and local conflicts leaving behind land mines, etc.
If that wasn't enough, UK oil company SOCO decided that it was a good idea to go explore for oil in Virunga National Park...
But thanks to a campaign by conservationists, lead by the WWF, enough pressure has been put on the oil giant to convince it to pull out of the area. Today it released a joint statement with the WWF pledging to conclude its current work there within 30 days and then "not to undertake or commission any exploratory or other drilling within Virunga National Park unless UNESCO and the DRC government agree that such activities are not incompatible with its World Heritage status." On top of that, they've also pledged to stay out of all other World Heritage sites.
But the work is not complete. This is a big victory, but it's only one oil company. The WWF is urging the Democratic Republic of Congo to cancel all other oil concessions in Virunga National Park and put permanent protection on the area.
The poster child of this campaign is the threatened mountain gorilla, but Virunga is also home to countless species that will benefit from these conservation efforts. Kudos to everyone who made this happen! Thanks to those of you who signed the petition.