The Norwegian embassy in Kampala has availed $30,000 (Shs 75m) as contribution towards the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga national Park.
The money is channelled through the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration (GVTC), a conservation body that brings together three countries that share the Virunga massif – Uganda, Rwanda and DRC. Sam Mwandha, GVTC’s executive secretary, revealed that this money would help bridge the current funding gap that the park faces, and would go towards providing field equipment, medical supplies, and administration and logistic expenses for the park’s staff.
“This fund will help [the park] staff to keep up the good work they and partners are undertaking for the conservation of this important landscape, in this difficult period when their own ability to generate funds from tourism has been suspended due to insecurity in the area,” Mwandha said.
The outbreak of war in DRC’s North Kivu province earlier this year has placed significant stress on the park’s ability to carry out the critical wildlife protection and enforcement activities in this protected area, which is part of the Greater Virunga landscape. The Virunga massif, which was recently voted one of the world’s must-see places, harbours one of the world’s most endangered species, the mountain gorilla.
A census carried out last year revealed that the massif has 480 gorillas. However, the outbreak of the war has furthered the danger to the animals, with the level of poaching increasing and gorillas getting caught between the fire exchange between rebels and government forces.
Recently, Ngwino, a juvenile gorilla from the Inshuti group in Rwanda, became the second mountain gorilla to die from injuries sustained from trying to free itself from a snare, and days after its death, conservationists discovered a black-back and two juveniles from Kuryama group dissembling two snares.
In July, the fighting factions in North Kivu allowed conservationists to patrol the park to ascertain the state of the gorillas following the fact that just two of the park’s five gorilla patrol posts remained open after the fighting.
While on a visit to GVTC last month, the Norwegian ambassador, Thorbjørn Gaustadsæther was impressed with the ongoing work by the Virunga national park staff under such difficult circumstances, especially with how the park managed to remain neutral and work with both sides of the conflict for the benefit of conservation, despite being a government institution.
Dr Emmanuel Demerode, Virunga national park’s director, lauded the support, emphasizing how important it is at this trying time.