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Leonardo DiCaprio, Emerson Collective and Global Wildlife Conservation Join the European Commission in Supporting New Virunga Fund

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After Virunga National Park Suffers Worst-Ever Attack on Park Rangers, Africa’s Oldest Park Launches Fund to Support Critical Conservation Efforts and Families of Fallen Rangers

For immediate release

May 18, 2020

Today, with the help of Earth Alliance—co-founded by Leonardo DiCaprio, Emerson Collective and Global Wildlife Conservation—along with support from the European Commission, Virunga National Park announced the Virunga Fund, which will launch with $2 million in seed funding.

Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is home to the famed mountain gorilla, which has bounced back from the brink of extinction but whose future is once again endangered, and more species of birds, reptiles, and mammals than any other protected area in the world. However, the park and surrounding communities face a series of unprecedented threats.

Emmanuel De Merode, director, Virunga National Park, said: “Faced with coronavirus and Ebola, we have never been more worried about the future of Virunga National Park. Virunga’s rangers are racing against the clock to protect both the local communities that surround the park and the endangered mountain gorilla population from these twin threats.”

In March, Virunga closed all tourism activities due to COVID-19, resulting in an immediate and significant loss of revenue. Less than two weeks ago, 12 Virunga rangers, a driver and four members of the local community lost their lives in a ferociously violent attack by a militia group, the deadliest attack on the park rangers in the history of African conservation. Ebola continues to threaten local populations and now the potential spread of COVID-19 represents a perilous threat to the mountain gorilla population, the rangers and the millions of people that live nearby to the park.

“I had the great honor of meeting and supporting Virunga’s courageous team in their fight against illegal oil drilling in 2013,” said Leonardo DiCaprio. “Virunga urgently needs funds to protect the endangered mountain gorilla population, to provide support to the rangers and the families of rangers who have tragically fallen in the line of duty, and to help deliver essential disease prevention efforts. It’s critical that we rally together during this time of incredible crisis.”

The Virunga Fund will aid in protecting the future of Africa's oldest and most biologically diverse protected area and the communities that surround Virunga National Park. The fund will also provide urgent support for partners on the ground to deliver critical disease prevention efforts, law enforcement, the protection of the iconic and critically endangered mountain gorilla and other keystone species like elephants and hippos, in addition to supporting the families of rangers who have fallen in the line of duty.

“The COVID-19 pandemic underscores just how profoundly interconnected life is on our planet and how protecting nature's balance is critical to our health and economic security,” said Brian Sheth, Global Wildlife Conservation board chair and co-founder and president of Vista Equity Partners. “The heroism of Virunga’s rangers does not just benefit the wildlife and local communities that live in and near the park, but all life on Earth. We are calling on the global community to join us in helping to support and protect these guardians and the irreplaceable wildlife and wildlands they protect."

“Virunga is a unique green economy model protecting people and nature. It is a great example of how we want to implement the Green Deal in a partnership between continents,” said Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen. She added that “we are delighted to contribute to the creation of the Virunga Fund that will contribute to the bright future of Virunga for generations to come.”

Virunga National Park earned international acclaim thanks to a 2014 Oscar-nominated investigative documentary, VIRUNGA, which tells the story of the individuals leading the fight to protect the park and the primary threats to its existence. Leonardo DiCaprio served as executive producer.

To learn more or contribute, please visit /virunga-fund/.

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Photo: Mountain gorillas at Virunga National Park. (Photo by Imaire Depoli, Virunga National Park)

Global Wildlife Conservation

GWC conserves the diversity of life on Earth by safeguarding wildlands, protecting wildlife and supporting guardians. We maximize our impact through scientific research, biodiversity exploration, habitat conservation, protected area management, wildlife crime prevention, endangered species recovery, and conservation leadership cultivation. Learn more at


Lindsay Renick Mayer

Global Wildlife Conservation



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