It’s a popular tourist area, known for its mountain gorillas. It covers 3,000 square miles, and its three sectors – north, central and south – have an unrivalled diversity of landscapes and ecosystems. It was founded back in 1925 as Parc Albert, and it was the first national park to be established on the African continent, primarily to protect the mountain gorillas who were living in the forests of the Virunga Massif. The park is a Unesco World Heritage site. It is home to several hundred species of birds, mammals and reptiles.
The world’s entire population of critically endangered mountain gorillas live only ini the Virunga Massife and Bwindi. The Virunga National Park is home to about a third of these wonderful animals. Currently it is estimated that there are about 1,000 mountain gorillas. Find out more about the park’s history here
There are currently over 700 male and female rangers actively protecting the park and the communities surrounding its borders. And let’s not forget the dogs who are part of the Virunga National Park Canine Unit, an invaluable part of the team.
Urgent funds are needed:
To protect the endangered mountain gorillas
To support the rangers
To support the families of rangers who have fallen in the line of duty. Over 175 rangers have been killed in the line of duty.
To deliver essential disease prevention efforts
Challenge such as this need heroes and each and every ranger is one, fighting to protect these amazing animals and give their families an income at the same time. Rangers do an extremely dangerous job, putting their lives on the line every day, to look after wildlife. Find out about the Rangers Project here.
Leonardo DiCaprio has contributed to a new fund which aims to support the Virunga National Park. Earth Alliance, a group co-founded by DiCaprio, has donated part of the initial £1.65 million funding. Di-Caprio was an executive producer on the documentary Virunga. (It was nominated for an Oscar in 2014.)
Its closure to tourists due to the coronavirus has resulted in a considerable loss of income.
Covid-19 poses an existential threat to the gorillas – WWF has warned that they are at risk of catching the coronavirus because they share 98% of their DNA with humans
A month after the park was closed, 12 park rangers, a drive and four members of the local community were killed in a terrible attack by 60 militiamen, who ambused a group of civilians being protected by the rangers. At the time, a statement from the park said it was an attack on local civilians, rather than the rangers themselves.
The rangers are racing against the clock to protect the local communities around the park and the gorillas.
You can help:
You can help by spreading the word - following the Virunga Park on social media and making a donation
$8 funds a pair of new boots for a ranger
$32 funds a ranger for a day (including family health insurance)
$50 funds a month of support for the widow and children of a Fallen Ranger
$150 funds two weeks of food and supplements for an orphan gorilla
$300 funds an hour of flight time for an anti-poaching patrol
$500 funds a one day tactical elephant protection operation
$1,000 funds a comprehensive sweep and remove of deadly snares in the mountain gorilla sector.
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The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists mountain gorillas as critically endangered.
Mountain gorillas are only found in the Virunga Massive and in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. They are one of the four great apes living in Africa and are the only great age which is increasing in population.
The Government of Rwanda, says the African Wildlife Foundation, has distinguished itself as a leader in conservation after the amazing recovery of the ape numbers.
The 2010 cenuses of mountain gorillas in the Virunga Massife showed there were about 880 individuals - 480 in the Virunga Massive and 400 in Bwindi. This means they had increased about 26% over the previous 7 years.
However, the increase in mountain gorillas has led to a key challenge: adequate habitat.
So in 2017, the African Wildlife Foundation bought a 27.8-hectare property next to the park.
In January, the Rwanda Development Board received a property that will help increase the size of Volcanoes National Park, vital habitat for the mountain gorillas. The park was established in 1925 and it's home to mountain gorillas. It is sited in the north of Rwanda bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda and it hoped that the handover of land from the African Wildlife Foundation to the Rwanda Development Board will help address the issue of adequate habitat.
Visitor numbers have risen 82% since 2007, showing that more and more people want to see mountain gorillas. Visitor numbers will help ensure their long term survival, provided that the gorillas are treated with respect and given the right habitat they need to survive and thrive.