Virunga National Park Battles to Protect The Critically Endangered Species of Africa

Virunga National Park is a national park in the Abertine Rift Valley, located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country within Central Africa. 

The park was created long ago, a result of the European conservation movement. The idea behind the movement was to establish a protected area in the northeastern Belgian Congo. Originally the protected area was set up in 1925 as Albert National Park. It was later expanded in 1929 to include Virunga National Park. It wasn’t until 1969 that the two parks were merged together as to become just Virunga National Park. 

A massive park, measuring at 8,090 square kilometers, it is one of the first ever areas in Africa to become protected. And for good reason; among the countless other species, there are over 200 mountain gorillas in the park, roughly one-quarter of the entire mountain gorilla population. 

Even as a protected area, Virunga National Park has still seen a lot of struggle. The park has suffered from the many years of war and other armed conflicts in the region. Climate change, community expansion, and poachers are also ongoing problems. Still, Virunga’s team of over 600 rangers do the best job that they can to defend the park and the wildlife that resides in it. 

Mountain Gorilla in Virunga National Park.

The rainforest serves as a natural home for the mountain gorillas, who thrive and raise families in the lush environment. There have been conservation efforts to further assist the gorillas, and while the efforts have done much to restore the species’ population, we still have a long way to go. Extensive deforestation in the region has proved to be very damaging, and the mountain gorilla is still a critically endangered species. 

It’s not just gorillas that are in danger. There has been an extensive battle to protect the elephant population as well. Tens of thousands of elephants are killed on a yearly basis for their ivory tusks. While there was an official ban on international trade that was placed in 1989, which did help the population to recover, there has remained a lot of ivory poaching and trafficking. 

Among the other endangered species are the African wild dog, the African penguin, Grévy’s zebra, the Ethiopian wolf, the black rhinoceros, and the white rhinoceros, to name just a few. Thankfully, the African Wildlife Foundation is dedicated to protecting as many of these precious species as they can. They have devised many solutions, which includes deploying sniffer dogs, and training wildlife rangers and law enforcement officers to help prevent wildlife crime. 

Elephants roaming through the Congo’s national park.

And ultimately, the African Wildlife Foundation is just one of many such organizations dedicated to helping the environment. There is also the International Volunteer HQ, Enkosini Eco Experience, ELI Abroad, the African Conservation Experience, among many others. 

For all the damage that the human race has done to the environment, we are also the ones who are tasked with the responsibility of repairing that damage and making this world a cleaner, healthier place to live in, both for our own sake and for the sake of the many wonderful animals who inhabit it. 

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