The Congo Basin is one of five of the world’s High Biodiversity Wilderness Areas, which means that not only is it home to a critical and diverse community of wildlife, but that at least 70 percent of its forests are still intact and functioning as a healthy ecosystem.
This includes the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the Rapid RESCUE Fund—established by Re:wild and the European Union—has supported and is continuing to support critical emergency efforts in two different parks: Virunga National Park and Upemba National Park.
Africa’s oldest park is found in a region afflicted by 25 years of armed conflict. The park’s principal conservation challenges stem from protracted war in the area. Well-armed militia, poaching rings, illegal charcoal operations, and encroachment of the protected area are the principal resulting threats, both to the park and the local communities.
In 2020, the park was severely impaired by the impacts of both COVID-19 and war, as the pandemic caused the suspension of tourism revenues, and 12 rangers were killed during the deadliest rebel attack in park history. Then in early 2021, another six rangers lost their lives to war, followed by a devastating volcanic eruption within the park that put at risk the lives of the surrounding communities and further deterred tourism.
Through the Rapid RESCUE Fund, Re:wild and the European Union provided Virunga with funding to strengthen ranger operations and restore critical energy infrastructure destroyed by the volcanic eruption. The Fund also financed budgetary shortfalls caused by the loss of tourism in the wake of COVID-19 and supported key projects that enabled Virunga to strengthen its resilience.
Total project costs: $9,965,954 ($3,321,096 Rapid RESCUE funding; $6,644,858 co-financing)
Upemba National Park is one of Africa’s oldest national parks and a designated Ramsar site, known for its rich diversity of wildlife and a range of different habitats. A spike in economic and political pressure in the DRC has undermined the preservation of protected areas in the country, and Upemba faces an onslaught of threats. For many years the park has been overwhelmed by rebel groups, poachers and illegal mining.
The Rapid RESCUE Fund is supporting the Forgotten Parks Foundation in efforts to maintain critical ranger operations in Upemba National Park, reverse destruction, and preserve the park’s diverse habitats, creating the foundation for the re-establishment of healthy, thriving populations of key species.
Total project costs: $450,000 ($150,000 Rapid RESCUE funding; $300,000 co-financing)
Ensuring a resilient Amazonia for post-COVID-19 recovery.
Responding to conflict, natural disaster and poaching in Virunga National Park and Upemba National Park.
Restoring, renovating and rebuilding after cyclones in Kianjavato.
Improving resilience and living conditions of local communities to protect the Termit and Tin-toumma National Nature Reserve.
Saving the Saola, a Critically Endangered species and one of the world's rarest large mammals, from extinction.