20 March 2012

A Mountain Gorilla, one of the 218 mammal species that make Virunga National Park in the DRC their home. © Greenpeace / Takeshi Mizukoshi

 

The Virunga National Park, Africa’s oldest UNESCO World Heritage Site, is situated along the border of DRC and Uganda.

The Park is a haven for over 218 mammal and 706 bird species, a beautifully lush environment where biodiversity is flourishing. It is also critically important for human life, providing very beneficial ecosystem services, such as freshwater and substantial revenues to local communities in the form of gorilla tourism and fishing.

After years of war, and the death of millions of people and animals, the Park is just reaching a point where life is pulsating again. The richness of the park is astounding: mountain and lowland landscapes, lakes, indigenous rain forests; it’s the only place in the DRC where the mountain gorillas still survive.

Now all this is under threat.

A British oil company, SOCO, and others including Total, are looking to explore for oil reserves in the park.

Despite an outcry from the international community and bodies like UNESCO, IUCN, the EU, and many others including Greenpeace, the DRC government and SOCO are continuing to develop oil exploration plans.

Oil exploration in the park is in total contradiction with the Equator Principles, regarding social and environmental safeguards – principles SOCO claims to support. If the exploration were to go ahead, a tragic precedent would be set: nowhere is safe from exploitation when oil comes into the picture.

Greenpeace demands that any plans to drill for oil in the national park are immediately halted. There is no question about what effect oil drilling would have on such a vulnerable environment – oil exploration and drilling would cripple the ecosystem.

Human greed and the desire for profit cannot be allowed to prevail in Virunga National Park. If exploration is permitted here, we will lose a part of our planet that is entirely irreplaceable, and there will be no limits to where drilling happens next,” said Olivia Langhoff, Campaigns Director for Greenpeace Africa.

“We are calling on the oil companies involved to take the bold step of calling off their plans to look for oil. Drilling in Virunga would go far beyond making a profit, it would be clear case of ecocide.”