Virunga Conservation Project
Africa’s oldest National Park, Virunga, is unrivalled in both biological and geological diversity.
One of the first conservationists to discover the importance of the Virungas was Professor Bernhard Grzimek who made a strong case for the need to conserve this extraordinary national park more than 50 years ago. Unfortunately, this border region has been impacted by ongoing conflict and civil war.
Mountain gorillas and chimpanzees are amongst the species that have fallen victim to these conflicts. There are approximately 800 mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) alive, about half of which live in the mountainous forests of the Virunga volcanoes. A small section of the park called the Tongo forest has been a focus of FZS as there are approximately 30 chimpanzees habituated in the area.
Fertile volcanic soils make the region one of the most cultivated and densely populated regions in Africa, with crop fields bordering the park boundaries and human settlements numbering more than five hundred people per square kilometre. It is one of the most densly populated places in Africa. The charcoal that constitutes 98 percent of a household’s energy source comes from the park’s hardwood forests. Destruction of the forest habitat and a steady increase in poaching pose a significant threat to hippos, elephants, gorillas and chimpanzees. Without regular monitoring and protection by the National Park rangers, these forests and their inhabitants could disappear rapidly.
What we do to support Virunga
We have been instrumental in supporting the Park Authority, ICCN, with a variety of activities including:
- Infrastructure: Improving infrastructure to optimise the Park managment in Virunga National Park
- Staff Support: Training ICCN staff and partners and assisting in the development of a General Management Plan
- Gorilla Conservation: Assisting in gorilla monitoring and anti-poaching training for the Virunga National Park rangers
- Monitoring: Data collection on the use of natural resources and needs, as well as the costs and benefits that could involve the local communities from the use of wild animals
- Tourism: Support for the development of ecotourism
- Supplies: Provision of medicines, medical equipment, and ranger equipment and rations
- Community Development: Educational outreach to neighbouring communities