The Virunga and Salonga National Parks area of the Congo has long been home to a large amount of wildlife, including several endangered species like mountain gorillas. Now, these animals could be in serious gander as the Democratic Republic of Congo has opened portions of the parks to oil drilling. The result could be large amounts of carbon dioxide being dumped into the air, increasing the threat of global warmings and further endangering the animals that live there.
About 20 percent of the Virunga national park will be opened up for oil drilling as a result of the move by the DRC government. Previous proposals were met with some pretty harsh resistance from animal activists, but representatives from the DRC said that they have the power to authorize drilling anywhere they want in the country, but that they are also mindful of protecting animals and plants in the areas that will be affected by the drilling.
Still, drilling in the proposed areas will require removing the protected status that has long protected the flora and fauna.
The President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila is no stranger to going up against environmental protests when it comes to decisions regarding his country and fossil fuels. Earlier this year, he signed another law which allowed coal mining in the country despite fierce opposition. The details of the new drilling law are anything but transparent, and given the tumultuous political pulse in the DRC, many feel that this doesn’t bode well for the health of the ecosystem in the Virunga region.
Virunga is home to more than half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas. The Solanga region is over 33,000 square kilometers and is the world’s second largest rainforest. It’s home to several animals, including dwarf chimpanzees, forest elephants, bonobos and Congo peacocks.
The population of the endangered mountain gorillas has increased by more than 25% since 2010 and many activists feel that by allowing drilling in their home we could be putting them at risk once again.
The Save Virunga organization strives to protect the area and the mountain gorillas. While they haven’t officially commented on the recent decision to allow oil drilling, a statement on their website says
“Virunga should be a place where no oil extraction and pollution occurs, a place where people develop sustainable livelihoods based on healthy and intact ecosystems.”
It is likely only a matter of time before Save Virunga and other organizations across the globe take an official stance against the decision made by the DRC government.