Virunga National Park the oldest national park in Africa is going to close to the public for two years after the most recent attack killed 12 guards as well as abducting two British tourists.
Over 180 Rangers have been killed in the Virungas over the last two decades including six in the most recent attack where the two tourists were taken. This is the worst single attack in the parks last two terrible decades.
The park covers 3000 square miles. In recent years it has been hard hit by both poaching and the Congo Civil War. The park contains 218 species of mammal that are known about, as well as 22 different species of primate – three of the great Apes, including lowland gorillas mountain gorillas (one third of the world’s remaining population) and Eastern chimpanzees. The Virungas contains populations of rare ungulates such as Okapis, and the Red Forest Duiker.
3 years ago the Congolese government gave oil rights, specifically to do prospective drilling throughout the park, to Soco International. The worldwide uproar was immediate and ferocious and eventually the company bowed to international pressure and gave up the rights.
However it would appear that the Global relief that the park was not going to be ravaged was premature. The licences have been given to a company called Oil Quest Holdings, which is based out of the Isle of Man, who has as a managing director the son of the director of Soco International.
Without the pressure of constant troops of high paying tourists seeing the state of the forest it is highly probable that that there will be an increase in poaching as well as potentially large amounts of environmental damage done, indeed an analysis of the oil reserves under the park is almost impossible to do without doing some damage to the park.
Pressure must be maintained on the government of the DRC to make sure that this does not happen.