African gorillas are under threat from oil survey
Controversial aerial surveys aimed at finding oil under Africa’s oldest national park have been started by a British company amid fears that drilling in the area could seriously threaten the world’s last sanctuary for mountain gorillas.
The moves towards possible oil exploration in Virunga national park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, have been condemned by the UK government and by the World Wildlife Fund.
This week the WWF is launching a campaign, Draw the Line, against the exploitation of the park, which was established in 1925 and designated a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1979.
Soco International, whose headquarters are in London, has defended its aerial survey, saying it was being governed and monitored under the terms of the Environmental Acceptability Certificate issued by the DRC’s ministry of the environment, nature conservation and tourism.
But earlier this year the Unesco world heritage committee called for the cancellation of all such Virunga oil permits and appealed to two concession holders, Total and Soco International, not to undertake exploration in world heritage sites. Total has since agreed to respect Virunga park’s current boundaries, leaving Soco as the only oil and gas company planning to explore inside the park’s 7,800 sq km. It claims its area of interest is not near the gorillas’ habitat. Rangers and wildlife experts disagree.
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