WWF celebrates a major milestone in protecting Virunga National Park today. Soco International PLC, the London-based multinational oil company, announced that it would end controversial oil exploration inside Virunga.
More than 750,000 global activists joined WWF’s campaign that called on Soco to leave Virunga, Africa’s oldest national park. Today’s reprieve is in no small part thanks to their strong support as well as the leadership of the US State Department and Members of Congress on this issue.
The news results from mediation following a complaint against Soco filed by WWF with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. In addition to leaving Virunga, Soco has committed to stay out of all other World Heritage Sites around the globe.
Keep oil out
Virunga is home to invaluable biodiversity and rare wildlife—including iconic and endangered mountain gorillas. The protected area in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is also important for people and the local economy. More than 27,000 people fish in Lake Edward—the part of the park where Soco had already begun seismic testing in April—and it is a critical source of freshwater to 50,000 people.
Now that Virunga is safe from this most immediate threat, WWF urges the DRC government to cancel all oil concessions overlapping the park. Only then will Virunga’s irreplaceable value be secure for the future. An independent report commissioned by WWF found the protected area is worth more than $1.1 billion annually if it is developed sustainably, rather than being given over to potentially damaging oil extraction.
Saving wild spaces
The Virunga Mountains are perhaps best known as the setting for Dian Fossey’s groundbreaking research made famous in Gorillas in the Mist. And Virunga National Park has become a symbol for increasing threats to the world’s last remaining wild places. We believe this commitment sends a message that fragile natural areas must be protected. WWF will continue to fight to save wild spaces and species.