Congolese government suspends oil exploration activities in Virunga National Park

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is today celebrating the positive outcome of our meeting with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) officials, where we presented our case and requested the immediate suspension of oil exploration in Virunga National Park.

As a result of this meeting, Congolese Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism, Mr José E.B. Endundo, has issued an open letter to five conservation organisations announcing the suspension of oil exploration in Virunga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to some of the world’s most critically endangered species.

In so doing, Mr Endundo has initiated a comprehensive, transparent and inclusive Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to analyse the best options available to the Congolese People.

SEA will provide the necessary recommendations to decide which of the social and economic benefits will ensure true development for the region and its people. SEA will be conducted with support from a number of donors of public aid.

The letter states that the Congolese Ministry has taken “…specific steps, which have led to the suspension of the given oil exploration activities. We have rejected the recommendations of an environmental impact assessment conducted by the oil company, Soco, which we consider premature, superficial and which does not conform to the standards which we would expect.”

The Minister has also confirmed that the senior management for Soco Oil had assured him that they “…will not attempt any prospection work in the park unless a positive consensus is achieved in their favour.”

Critical National Park

Mark Rose, CEO of FFI, welcomed the announcement, commenting, “We are greatly encouraged by this news and commend the government on their positive action. FFI will continue to engage the Congolese government on this issue, urging them to keep taking measures to ensure the world’s appetite for oil does not stand in the way of the survival of the incredibly rich biodiversity of this critical national park.”

Virunga National Park is home to approximately 200 of the world’s mountain gorillas, a small population of eastern lowland gorillas, hippopotamus, chimpanzee, elephant, giraffe and okapi.

It contains more species of mammals, reptiles and birds than any other protected area in Africa, and possibly in the world.

It has an exceptional diversity of landscapes stretching from the glaciers of the Ruwenzori Mountains, at over 17,000 feet, to impenetrable forests, savannas, rivers Rwindi and Semiliki, and lake ecosystems.

Formerly known as Albert National Park, Virunga lies in eastern DRC.

Read more about Fauna & Flora International’s work in the DRC.

Learn more about Fauna & Flora International’s Business & Biodiversity Programme.