WWF has called on French oil company Total to refrain from exploration in Virunga National Park. At a meeting of Total shareholders and investors Friday, WWF hosted a demonstration and published an open letter to the company president.
Total has been granted an oil concession that includes a portion of the World Heritage Site, which is recognized as a treasure of biodiversity. WWF is asking Total to declare Virunga and all World Heritage Sites off limits for oil development.
WWF is concerned that oil exploration could have negative impacts on communities that depend on the park for their livelihoods and on endangered species that live in the park, such as mountain gorillas.
To illustrate to Total investors the threat oil development could have on mountain gorillas, volunteers marked off a symbolic crime scene at the company’s annual meeting and launched an online petition.
Open letter: Mr. de Margerie, the future of the oldest African national park is in your hands
To the attention of Mr. Christophe de Margerie,
President and CEO of Total
Virunga National Park, located eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, was the first national park to be created on the African continent over 85 years ago.
With its exceptional ecosystems, it also is especially known for hosting over 200 species of mammals including the rare okapi, protected since 1933, but also the mountain and lowland gorillas, two species in critical danger of extinction.
It is thanks to this unique ecological value than Virunga National Park was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979.
For WWF and its members, the preservation of Virunga National Park is of paramount importance as it is written into the history and identity of our international network which was created in 1961.
This irreplaceable jewel is now under threat.
Sir, you are aware that one of the oil concessions that overlaps the park area is in the hands of Total.
Therefore, we take the opportunity of this annual general meeting to publicly alert you and your shareholders on the dangers posed by your company to the Virunga park and its treasures.
We cannot believe that an industrial group like yours, which upholds the value of sustainable development, can be insensitive to the risks that oil exploration would pose to this area.
That is why WWF asks you to state publicly that the current boundaries of the Virunga park and all the World Heritage Sites are a “no go” for your company.
Yours and our planet,
Isabelle Autissier, President of WWF-France
Serge Orru, Director General of WWF-France
A collective of the world’s leading conservation groups are supporting a statement made yesterday calling for the halting of all petroleum exploration in Virunga National Park: here.
British oil company SOCO International, which has already begun activities in Virunga, was criticized in the State of Conservation report on Virunga as being “hostile to the park”. The committee said SOCO’s permits did not conform to Democratic Republic of the Congo’s international commitments: here.
June 2013. The international body that oversees World Heritage Sites today requested the cancelation of oil exploration permits in Virunga National Park, some of which are currently held by international petroleum conglomerates, including UK-based Soco International PLC and French oil giant Total SA: here.
‘Oil threat’ to DR Congo’s Virunga National Park: here.
Virunga: August 2013. Africa’s oldest national park could be worth US$1.1 billion per year if developed sustainably, rather than being given over to potentially-damaging oil extraction, a report released by WWF today has found: here.
October 2013. WWF has filed a complaint alleging that British oil company Soco International PLC has breached international corporate social responsibility standards. WWF contends that, in the course of Soco’s oil exploration activities in and around Virunga National Park, the company has violated environmental and human rights provisions of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises: here.
October 2012. Flying hundreds of kilometres above the Earth, satellites rarely see the human suffering from war and poverty. But decades of unrest have left a very visible impact on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): here.
The DRC contains half of Africa’s tropical forest and the second largest continuous tropical forest in the world. Because of unrest and economic instability, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has mostly escaped the industrial-scale deforestation that has taken place in other tropical countries such as Brazil and Indonesia. The exception is near the country’s eastern border, around Virunga National Park: here.
- Congo’s rare mountain gorillas could become victims of oil exploration (theguardian.com)
- Africa’s Oldest National Park may be Put at Risk by Oil Exploration (natureworldnews.com)
- Virunga National Park, D.R.C. Africa ( & Oil ! ) (darranrees.wordpress.com)
- Keep Oil Exploration Out of Virunga National Park (sunsetdaily.wordpress.com)
- Soco oil corporation planning to devastate Congo gorilla reserve (dgrnewsservice.org)
- WILDLIFE: Congo gorillas and oil exploration (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- African gorillas are under threat from oil survey (theguardian.com)
- Virunga Under Threat: Gorillas, Oil and the Congo (achangingwildworld.wordpress.com)
- British oil company endangering Africa’s most biodiverse area: WWF (rawstory.com)
- Another hill to climb for mountain gorillas (smh.com.au)