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Conservation of Mountain Gorillas in Congo DC

Situation

Virunga National Park is situated in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the border with Uganda and Rwanda. It is known to have a higher number of mammal, bird and reptile species than any other protected area in Africa, and is home to mountain gorillas, lowland gorillas and chimpanzees. But while it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this label does not automatically safeguard the park’s wildlife. The region around the park is one of the most densely populated areas in the world and one of the hardest regions in which to live and work; the result of on-going armed conflicts and chronic insecurity. This situation not only affects the local communities, but also puts the park’s wildlife at risk. Half of the 820 mountain gorillas still alive worldwide live in the Virunga National Park. They are in great danger of becoming extinct due to illegal animal traffickers, who capture baby gorillas and kill the rest of the gorilla family in their attempts to protect their young. Although park rangers often risk their lives to protect the park’s fauna and flora from intruders, they cannot protect the whole park all the time. Another approach was needed.

About the applicant

WildlifeDirect was established in 2006 to provide support to conservationists in Africa using blogs - this enables anybody, anywhere to play a direct and interactive role in the survival of some of the world’s most precious species. The idea is to enable conservationists to post blogs on a special platform and link them to fundraising sites. This way conservationists can raise funds directly. WildlifeDirect provides the facilities and hosts the platform, but charges no fees whatsoever.

About the application (2008)

WildlifeDirect wanted to expand its support to the conservationists and rangers at Virunga National Park to create awareness amongst both the local population and students around the world. The organisation holds the belief that when local communities understand that they are the primary stakeholders in protecting wildlife, they are more inclined to offer their help and support. To realise this, a special online platform was to be built to enable conservationists and rangers to communicate their work internationally, while simultaneously raising funds for their cause. Educational programmes, particularly in schools, would be used to reach the local population.

Intended results

WildlifeDirect hoped to raise a minimum of $100,000 through its online funding platform in the first year. A web-based wildlife education platform was to be implemented in 100 schools within the first year, with an estimated average of 50 students using the tool on a weekly basis.

Actual results

The website (http://gorillacd.org/) is full of interactive features, such as photo stories showing how the rangers go about their work in the park. Website visitors can also donate directly through this site. In a few simple clicks, donors can adopt a piece of the park or even a specific gorilla. Although killings still sometimes happen, the mountain gorilla population has steadily increased over the last few years. Although the Prince Bernhard Nature Fund does not have a precise overview of the number of donations per year, fundraising seems to be very successful and the online funding platform has played a crucial role here.

Photo: Gorillacd.org