Crises at Virunga National Park

Faced with a renewed threat from poaching, we desperately need your help

A UNESCO World Heritage Site and the second oldest national park in the world, Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has the highest biological diversity of any national park in Africa and is home to mountain gorillas, hippos, buffaloes, lions and elephants among its many inhabitants. 

For many years, poaching has been a major threat to Virunga’s elephants, with a reported 90% decline in numbers over the last two decades.  Last month, things took a turn for the worse, as rangers recorded an increasing number of poaching incidents, with 5 elephants being killed in just 4 days at the end of March. 

Responsibility for most of this recent spate in poaching is reported to lie with the Congolese Army – there are 5000 troops stationed around the Park, which itself is protected by just 500 rangers.  Due to reforms within the Congolese Wildlife Authority, the latter figure is set to almost half, further reducing the potential coverage by ranger foot patrols. Faced with this daunting task, aerial surveillance is an expensive but indispensable tool to help identify and intercept poachers as quickly as possible, and thus prevent the killing.  As Emmanuel de Merode, the Chief Warden recently stated:

“With regular surveillance flights, we can often spot the poachers’ fires, even if they’re in the forest. Poachers know that they have a much greater chance of being detected and this acts as a very important deterrent, ultimately helping us to ensure that poachers give up even trying to enter the park.”

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