GLOBAL CONSERVATION GROUPS TAKE AIM AT CONGO OVER VIRUNGA OIL FIND
(Posted 08th November 2015)
Opposition is forming just days after Congo’s Ministry of Hydrocarbons confirmed that the tests carried out by controversial British company Soco had confirmed the existence of major oil deposits.
‘Hands Off Virunga’ will very likely be the campaign slogan by global and regional conservation groups, as consultations are now getting into gear how best to secure the long term survival of one of our planets greatest biodiversity hotspots, the Parc de Virunga. Home to the endangered mountain gorillas and other endangered species is the park one of the oldest in Congo. The dismal conservation record of the country however speaks for itself, having knowingly condemned the last living Northern White Rhino population to death when in an infantile reaction – your guess is as good as mine about the why – the then responsible minister withdraw relocation permissions at the last moment when the engines of the transport plane were about to warm up. It is no secret that the Kabila regime is almost hellbent to sell oil concessions to the highest bidders with no regard that the park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and crucial part of the tri-nation ecosystem in which the mountain gorillas live.
The park chief warden, Belgian royal Emmanuel de Merode, narrowly escaped death last year in April when an assassination attempt failed but it took him months to recover from the bullet wounds he sustained during the targeted attack during which other conservation staff were routinely threatened by individuals suspected to carry the torch for the regime in Kinshasa, trying to scare them off.
Long a hotbed of militia activities have sections of the Rwandan killer militias of 1994 sought refuge in the park and its neighbourhood and have to this day not been displaced by a combined UN and Congolese force, which however brutally attacked other militias thought to be pro-Rwandan, a sign that not all is well in the area. While fewer incidents of poaching and rangers being killed in the park are reported now are the threats remaining the new newly confirmed oil wealth will no doubt raise the level of intimidation and violence against conservation NGO’s once again.
Like in Burundi are machinations also underway in Kinshasa to extend the rule of Kabila and the country, not only over the emerging Virunga developments, is under intense scrutiny about political developments too. Watch this space for future updates as and when additional information becomes available. Meanwhile find out more about the Virunga ecosystem by clicking on www.virunga.org, www.visitvirunga.org and in addition see an article by National Geographic via http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/special-features/2014/06/140606-gorillas-congo-virunga-national-park/