Virunga National Park is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Home to the largest number of mountain gorillas in the world, this rare and endangered species is at further risk of extinction due to oil companies competing to drill here. Such activities risk damage to the ecosystem and lake, in turn impacting upon the animals and people who depend on it. An estimated 200,000 local people and fishermen rely upon the lake for their livelihoods.
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The Virunga Alliance
Virunga National Park recently released a 10 year plan known as “the Virunga Alliance” which intends to create a large amount of clean energy for rural communities through investments into off-grid hydro-electric plants. This project will create tens of thousands of jobs and reinvigorate one of the poorest communities in the world, promoting prosperity and stability in this conflict affected territory.
Not only will this initiative help the community, it will secure a safer future for Africa’s oldest national park and the wildlife within, including the endangered mountain gorillas. Consisting of savannah, forests, swamps, lava plains, active volcanoes and the Rwenzori Mountains glacial peaks, this 300 square mile park is one of the most exciting in Africa.
Virunga is home to elephant, hippopotamus, lions and many rare bird species, and is the only national park worldwide to boast the three species of great ape. The chimpanzee, lowland gorilla and the rare mountain gorilla all reside here making it a nature lover’s paradise. With a gorilla trekking guide the chance of spotting these magnificent creatures is all but guaranteed. There are a number of reputable firms that provide such services to ensure tourists experience the very best of this thrilling national park.
Protecting the Park
The new hydro-electric power plant on the Rutshuru River was designed to impact as minimally as possible on the local ecology and is expected to be operational in 2016, producing 12.6 megawatts of clean and renewable energy which will double the power production in this region. This extra electricity will boost industries such as coffee production, fishing and livestock as well as supporting tourism. Selling electricity will also fund protection for the park for the following 75 to 100 years, securing the region as an unspoilt UNESCO site.