MAY 2012: Total, Virunga “is in your hands”

Credits: © WWF / Martin Leers

WWF has called on French oil company Total to refrain from exploration in Virunga National Park. At a meeting of Total shareholders and investors Friday, WWF hosted a demonstration and published an open letter to the company president.

Total has been granted an oil concession that includes a portion of the World Heritage Site, which is recognized as a treasure of biodiversity. WWF is asking Total to declare Virunga and all World Heritage Sites off limits for oil development.

WWF is concerned that oil exploration could have negative impacts on communities that depend on the park for their livelihoods and on endangered species that live in the park, such as mountain gorillas.

To illustrate to Total investors the threat oil development could have on mountain gorillas, volunteers marked off a symbolic crime scene at the company’s annual meeting and launched an online petition.

Open letter: Mr. de Margerie, the future of the oldest African national park is in your hands

To the attention of Mr. Christophe de Margerie,
President and CEO of Total

Dear Sir,

Virunga National Park, located eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, was the first national park to be created on the African continent over 85 years ago.

With its exceptional ecosystems, it also is especially known for hosting over 200 species of mammals including the rare okapi, protected since 1933, but also the mountain and lowland gorillas, two sub-species in critical danger of extinction.

It is thanks to this unique ecological value than Virunga National Park was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979.

For WWF and its members, the preservation of Virunga National Park is of paramount importance as it is written into the history and identity of our international network which was created in 1961.

This irreplaceable jewel is now under threat.

Sir, you are aware that one of the oil concessions that overlaps the park area is in the hands of Total.
Therefore, we take the opportunity of this annual general meeting to publicly alert you and your shareholders on the dangers posed by your company to the Virunga park and its treasures.

We cannot believe that an industrial group like yours, which upholds the value of sustainable development, can be insensitive to the risks that oil exploration would pose to this area.

That is why WWF asks you to state publicly that the current boundaries of the Virunga park and all the World Heritage Sites are a “no go” for your company.

Yours and our planet,

Isabelle Autissier, President of WWF-France

Serge Orru, Director General of WWF-France

Source: WWF International