Sunday, 1 July 2018

CONGO DR: Government Allows Oil Exploration In Virunga And Salonga National Parks ,Environmental Activists Oppose

Virunga national park is the most bio-diverse park in Africa.

Instead Democratic Republic of Congo has allowed oil exploration in two protected wildlife parks, Virunga and Salonga.

The move is strongly opposed by environmental activists, who say drilling would place wildlife at risk and contribute to global warming.

Almost a fifth of Virunga national park will be opened to oil drilling.

The parks are home to bush elephants, critically endangered mountain gorillas and the bonobo, an endangered ape.

Both parks are Unesco World Heritage Sites, with Salonga national park covering 36,000 sq km (13,900 sq miles) of the Congo Basin, the world's second-largest rainforest after the Amazon.

The government has defended its right to authorise drilling anywhere in the country, saying in a statement that it is mindful of protecting animals and plants in the two parks.

The cabinet said it had approved commissions charged with preparing plans to declassify parts of the parks, including 1,720 sq km (664 sq miles), or 21.5%, of eastern Congo's Virunga, the continent's oldest wildlife reserve.

Earlier this year, park authorities decided to close the park famous for its volcanoes to visitors until 2019 after two British tourists were kidnapped and a female park ranger was killed.

The region has suffered rising instability and violence, with at least 12 rangers killed in clashes with armed groups and poachers in the past year.

175 park rangers in Virguna national park have been killed in the line of duty since 1925

British company Soco International performed seismic testing there but let its licence lapse in 2015.

Save Virunga gives a voice to local communities who depend on the survival of Virunga National Park for their livelihoods. We believe that local communities and civil society have a say in the decision and future of the region.

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.

The Virunga National Park is Africa’s oldest and most biodiverse park. It is a 7800 square km National Park that stretches from the Virunga Mountains in the South, to the Rwenzori Mountains in the North, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, bordering Rwanda and Uganda.

Virunga’s fauna and flora, as well as the political and security situation in the Great Lakes region are tied closely to the people and to the protection and preservation of this ecosystem. Disruptions in one element will lead automatically to changes in the others.

The park’s future is threatened: oil has been discovered, and the Congolese government has awarded three concessions for oil exploration, which cover 85% of the park. Oil becomes the most important threat to the park, to the communities and to the ecosystem.

SOCO International plc is an international oil and gas exploration and production company, headquartered in London. SOCO holds rights on the oil concession in BLOCK V (85%).SOCO’s contract allows them access to a big part of Virunga National Park threatening the park with disruptive seismic tests, forest clearing, underground drilling and the laying of oil pipelines.

Since the beginning of SOCO’s exploration operations in Virunga National Park, Environmental and Human Rights defenders have been fighting for the survival of the park and the respect of community rights. Many of them are facing threats when fighting for Virunga and promoting the sustainable development option for the region and communities.

Save Virunga brings out the power of local communities and conveys their messages to protect Virunga and preserve the integrity of its ecosystems for future generations.

Gorilla beringei beringei: Critically Endangered

Eastern Gorillas (Gorilla beringei) live in the mountainous forests of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, northwest Rwanda and southwest Uganda.

This region was the epicentre of Africa’s world war, to which Gorillas have also fallen victim. The Mountain Gorilla subspecies (Gorilla beringei beringei), has been listed as Critically Endangered since 1996.

Bonobos: Endangered

Due to high levels of illegal hunting, and habitat destruction and degradation, Pan paniscus is estimated to have experienced a significant population reduction in the last 15–20 years and it is thought that this reduction will continue for the next 60 years.

Currently, by far the greatest threat to the Bonobo’s survival is poaching for the commercial bushmeat trade. It has been estimated that nine tons of bushmeat are extracted daily from a 50,000-km² conservation landscape within the Bonobo’s range.

Chimpanzees: Endangered

Although Pan troglodytes is the most abundant and widespread of the great apes, and many populations exist in protected areas, the declines that have occurred are expected to continue, satisfying the criteria for an Endangered listing (Oates 2006).

Due to high levels of poaching, infectious diseases, and loss of habitat and habitat quality caused by expanding human activities, this species is estimated to have experienced a significant population reduction in the past 20–30 years and it is suspected that this reduction will continue for the next 30–40 years.

Manatees: Vulnerable

The level of threats, particularly hunting and incidental catches, appears to be continuing to increase throughout range with locally high rates and near extirpation in some regions.

Lack of protein and continued poverty for human populations, and limited enforcement of national laws, are expected to drive increasing illegal hunting levels.

Destruction of coastal areas due to development, mangrove harvesting, siltation and dams are resulting in reduced habitat. We infer a high probability that a 30% or greater reduction in population size will result within a 90 year three generation period.

Okapi: Endangered

Okapi have been undergoing a decline since at least 1995 that is ongoing and projected to continue, in the face of severe, intensifying threats and lack of effective conservation action which is hindered by the lack of security.

The rate of decline is estimated to have exceeded 50% over three generations (24 years), based on figures from surveys in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve suggesting a 43% decline over the period 1995-2007, which some reports suggest continued in the period thereafter.

The RFO remains the best protected site and it is inferred that the rate of decline here is at least equalled in other parts of the Okapi range.

These species, some of which are endemic to the DRC, will end up in Taiyuan and Anji Zhongnan Zoos in China.


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