A government order permitting oil exploration in the Virunga Mountains could pose a threat to critically endangered Mountain gorillas living in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to officials from the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP).
“There are approximately 780 Mountain gorillas left in the wild, and any disturbance in their ecosystem could have disastrous results,” said GRASP coordinator Doug Cress. “Surely oil is not worth that cost.”
The Virunga National Park was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1994, and is currently included in the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger.
UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre recently issued a statement that cited “deep concerns” over the oil exploration process.
A Ministerial Order signed on September 1, 2011, gave the South Africa Congo Oil (SOCO) company permission to begin an oil exploration campaign along areas of the Albertine Rift that include the Virunga National Park.
The Congolese prime minister, M. Adolphe Muzito, committed to a ban on oil exploration in the region in early 2011, and the Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Toruism (MECNT) has called for an environmental assessment to be conducted by an independent body. Nevertheless, the government order permits aeromagnetic and aerogravimetric explorations while the environmental evaluation strategy process is in progress.
For more information, please visit http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/849/.
Source: UNEP GRASP