Insecurity, Oil Exploration Threaten Virunga Gorillas

1222 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
Constant insecurity and oil exploration activities in protected areas are affecting conservation efforts in the Greater Virunga Conservation Area.

Constant insecurity and oil exploration activities in protected areas are affecting conservation efforts in the Greater Virunga Conservation Area.
 
The area that covers Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo is home to the only remaining endangered species of the Mountain Gorillas. The region has about 860 Gorillas, of which at least over 400 are resident in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, while the rest are shared between Mgahinga Game Park, Virunga national park in DR. Congo and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
 
For over a decade now, the area has been home to insurgents who have affected the wildlife and environment of the area. The recent exploration for oil in Virunga by SOCO, a British oil exploration company and Murchison Falls by Total PLC are some of the threats the conservationists are dealing with.
 
Dr. Muamba Tshibasu, the Executive Secretary of Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration, says the oil exploration activities have had a negative impact on the conservation efforts. UNESCO lists Virunga as a world heritage site and no other activities are supposed to take place in the area, apart from conservation. World Wildlife Fund launched a campaign against oil exploration, which forced SOCO to suspend its activities in the area early this year.
 
Speaking in French, Muamba says the insecurity that has gripped DR. Congo, Rwanda and until recently the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels created a real danger for the existence of wildlife in the area. He says that to stop these activities that threaten the endangered species; governments of the three countries must do more to provide better security.
 
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Dr. Andrew Seguya, the Executive Director of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and a board member of Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration, says wildlife crime across the borders cannot be eliminated if the security is not given due prominence. He says the process of forming the security committee took unnecessarily long, but is optimistic that with its formation, the security of the wildlife and people living around the protected areas will be assured.
 
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Seguya however says the organization has developed strategies that will help them overcome challenges faced in dealing with wildlife crime. He says since 2004, GVTC has worked to ensure that people living in the Virungas benefit from the economic activities taking place in the area. He says the various committees are expected to perform their duties to ensure that conservation efforts are not wasted.
 
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The members of the technical committee on security and law enforcement of protected areas were in Kampala this week for a two day workshop aimed at devising means to deal with trans-border wildlife crime in the region. The committee is expected to come up with recommendations and working solution which all the three countries will adopt.