Virunga National Park is situated inside the Democratic Republic of Congo, the second largest country in Africa. The park is 7,769 km² and a sanctuary for extremely rare wildlife that depends on the haven of the national park to survive. Virunga itself is home to over 200 mammals including forest and savanna elephants, hippos, lions and a third of the wild mountain gorillas in the world today.
The park was first established in 1925 making it the first National Park on the African continent. Initially established to protect the wild mountain gorillas in the Virunga mountains but was continually expanded to protect more habitats. Virunga National Park also hosts the largest diversity of bird life in the world which in 1979 earned the park UNESCO world heritage status. Subsequently it was placed on the list of ‘World Heritage in Danger’ due to civil unrest destabilising the nation.
Ensuring the protection of these animals and habitats has come at a great cost, the park rangers regularly face violent poachers and rebel groups. The rangers are selflessly putting their lives on the line to protect the endangered animals and plants within the park, as I write this in 2022, two hundred park rangers have lost their lives defending the park’s inhabitants since its establishment in 1925.
The park is home to over 300 wild mountain gorillas, making it one of the last refuges for their species. With a global wild population that only floats at around 1000 it makes Virunga home to around a third of all the wild mountain gorillas in the world. The gorillas face constant threat from habitat loss, poachers, and disease and none of these issues are easy to solve. The habitat is reducing in size for a multitude of reasons that range from poor agricultural practices to the creation of settlements from displaced people who are fleeing conflict in other parts of the country and across the continent.
To read more on the poaching and disease challenging the mountain gorillas, click here.
This is part one-of-two, a mini-series on the Virunga National Park we’re releasing as we find ways to both spread awareness and support the developing coffee trade growing in this region.
We are now selling a Virunga coffee on our site to support this fraught region of Africa, link to the coffee below before it sells out.