Virunga National Park is one of the most irreplaceable places on the planet, and a key battleground in the fight against climate change.
The wild is for the 100%. And it’s going to take all of us to protect and restore it. The rangers of Virunga National Park protect the area’s threatened species and surrounding communities. Virunga is Africa’s oldest and most biologically diverse protected area—home to more than 2,000 plant species, 706 bird species, and 218 mammal species. It is the only park in the world that harbors three species of great apes, including Chimpanzees, Lowland Gorillas and Mountain Gorillas, and is home to more species of birds, reptiles and mammals than any other protected area on the continent. It is a Key Biodiversity Area, meaning it’s important to the planet’s overall health and the persistence of biodiversity.
The rangers of Virunga National Park have a dangerous and difficult job. They risk their lives protecting the wildlife and the ecosystem, and many have died in this pursuit. Our mission is to buy the rangers time, so renewable energy systems can be built and the park’s wildlife can remain protected until long term solutions are achieved.
The park’s principal conservation challenges stem from the protracted war that has afflicted the region. Well-armed militia, poaching rings, illegal charcoal operations, and the encroachment of the protected area by human populations are the principal resulting threats, both to the park and the local communities. More than 200 park rangers have lost their lives protecting the park since the beginning of the first Congolese civil war, many of whom have fallen in the line of duty while providing security to the park’s civilian population.
Re:wild has teamed up with the European Commission and Virunga National Park in a partnership that aims to restore the park’s ecosystems with a focus on the great apes, and establish the park as the major driver for economic growth, peace and stability in eastern Congo. The project builds on the park’s Virunga Alliance program, which was established to create more than 100,000 jobs to draw people out of the armed militia and into productive society as an innovative approach to peacebuilding. Part of this strategy involves the long-term development of a 105-megawatt renewable energy program, coupled with significant private sector investment in agricultural transformation to alleviate poverty and bring stability to the region.
Other species are also rewilding Virunga. The park recently saw the homecoming of about 580 African Savanna Elephants, thanks to recent and critical conservation efforts in its central savanna. Now the elephants are rewilding the landscape, pummeling invasive plants and transforming it back to a fully functioning grassland, allowing the return of grazers and other wildlife species that have been largely absent from the park for the last two decades.
Virunga’s elephants, gorillas, and other wildlife, and the rangers protecting them, need your help. The joyous return of the elephants at these numbers comes during a particularly tough time for Virunga, which has been closed to tourism since March 2020 and, as a result, has struggled to sustain its critical functions. In addition, continued militia activity in the region continues to result in the violent deaths of rangers. All of this while rangers and staff have been managing the impacts of both Ebola and COVID-19 on the park and local communities.
This ranger knows his gorilla noses. In an effort to identify all the Mountain Gorillas within Virunga National Park, rangers like Jacques use "noseprints" in a similar way we use fingerprints to tell who's who. Each gorilla has their own unique pattern of wrinkles above their nostrils, revealing their identity. Rangers at Virunga use drawings and photos of the Mountain Gorillas noseprints as part of a database for the identification of these Endangered apes within the park. This helps them track the family groups and individuals and better protect them.