Hello readers, today we dive in into the Democratic republic of Congo where we find the Virunga national park- one of the most threatened national parks in the world. Here, we will meet the heroes who make this place what it is and why it is under threat. This wonderful home to diverse animal and plant species was created early in the 1925. From North to South it extends to 300 KM, along the international borders of Rwanda and Uganda in the East. Two active volcanoes are located in the park; Mount Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira. They have significantly shaped the park’s diverse wildlife and habitats. About 3,000 floral and fauna species were recorded in the park including, the Eastern Gorilla and the golden monkey. The Virunga national park is home to 196 mammal species, 706 bird species, 109 reptile species, 65 amphibian species, 264 tree species and 230 plant species. March to mid May and September to November are the main rainy seasons at the park. With a group of dedicated rangers behind him, Emmanuel de Merode is the director and chief warden of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). More than 140 rangers have lost their lives while protecting this safe haven from poachers and rebels alike because the Virunga national park has been at the center of many civil wars. The park has also been at risk due to clandestine fishing, poaching, logging and even illegal production and charcoal smuggling. The survival of the well-known mountain gorilla is at stake due to these conflicts. Many gorillas have been slaughtered due to the selfishness of those who aim to benefit from the death of the park. This very rich in biodiversity park is also at risk due to the plans of exploration from an oil conglomerate. Although Virunga National Park’s pristine wilderness has been granted protections under Congolese and international law, companies from Europe and elsewhere are pursing plans for oil extraction in and around the park. About 30,000 people depend on this park for their livelihoods. The blind spots in the complex interplay between conservation and violent conflict stem to a large extent from deeply rooted unequal power relations between the North and the South. These inequalities cause certain narratives, policy options and voices to be heard, and others to be excluded. The conservation efforts cannot afford to shy away from these areas of conflict. This means that the decolonisation of nature conservation is a precondition for its demilitarisation.
Barbara Michoma, The Traveling Mindset.