ProjectsAfricaDR CongoVirunga Conservation Project
Virunga Conservation Project

To help conserve and manage the threatened wildlife of Virunga National Park in partnership with the Congolese Wildlife Authority, neighbouring communities and other stakeholders; to support local communities (including Batwa Pygmies) by implementing a series of social and economic projects.


Status: National Park, IUCN Category II Established 1925, the first in Africa World Heritage Site 1979, on Danger List since 1994 Ramsar Site 1996
Geographical Location: North-east DRC, bordering Uganda and Rwanda (0°55'N -1°35'S and 29°10 - 30°00'E)
Size: 7,900 km². Transboundary with Rwenzori Mountains NP (Uganda), Parc National des Volcans (Rwanda) and Mgahinga Gorilla NP (Uganda).


Established in 1925, the Virunga National Park is the oldest park in Africa and is unrivalled in its biological and geological diversity. In 1979 it was designated a UNESCO world heritage site exhibiting exceptional levels of biodiversity of global importance. The region is extremely species-rich and harbours more endemics (species that occur nowhere else on earth) than any other park in Africa. Virunga also has one of the largest volcano lava lakes and the greatest landscape diversity between 3,000 and 16,000 feet in the world.

One of the first conservationists to discover the importance of the Virungas was Prof. B. Grzimek who pleaded for their conservation more than 30 years ago. Unfortunately, this border region has also been the site of terrible conflict and civil war, with the 1994 Rwandan genocide and the wars in Congo in 1996-1997 and 1998-2003. FZS resumed the program for the protection of the mountain gorillas and chimpanzees in Virunga National Park in 2003 as security in the region increased.

Today, there are only approximately 800 mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) alive. About half of them live in the mountainous forests of the Virunga volcanoes, while a second population lives in the Bwindi National Park in Uganda. There are currently none in captivity.Mountain gorillas are therefore not only one of the rarest, but also one of the most threatened mammals on earth. In the past decade, the political disturbance in the DRC, as well as numerous fugitives from neighbouring Rwanda, has put great pressure on the National Park. Fertile volcanic soils make the region one of the most cultivated and densely populated regions in Africa, with crop fields right up against the park boundaries and an average of more than five hundred people per square kilometer. The charcoal that constitutes 98 percent of a household’s energy source comes from the park’s hardwood forests. Destruction of the forest habitat and a recent increase in poaching pose a huge threat to the last of the mountain gorillas. Without intense monitoring and protection by the National Park rangers, mountain gorillas and their forest habitat could disappear in front of our eyes.


Nature conservation:

  • Construction of the park’s headquarters and the provision of ranger equipment and rations to support effective operations in the Virunga National Park
  • Support of priority activities in the General Management Plan
  • Capacity building of ICCN staff and local partners, including specific gorilla monitoring and anti-poaching training for the Virunga National Park rangers
  • Gain better understanding of natural resource use and needs, and costs and benefits to communities from wildlife, through socio-economic surveys of the area
  • Support for tourism development

Community development:

  • Acquire land for the Batwa Pygmy community of approximately 1,250 people, currently living around the gorilla sector in improvised tents
  • Build houses for and with the Batwa Pygmy community
  • Build social infrastructure (health posts and schools) for both Pygmy and local communities surrounding the Mikeno sector
  • Supporting Pygmy children’s education with provision of school equipment and uniforms
  • Provide training in agriculture, apiculture, and small-rearing for the Pygmy population and secure access to social and economic opportunities (cultivating coffee crops, etc.)
  • Provide education to Pygmy children
  • Build a cultural center for the Pygmy community and promote tourism related activities
  • Support ICCN with the equipment to build an electric fence to protect the neighboring community’s crops from raiding by animals
  • Building capacity among local NGOs –the implementing partners of the community activities

Alison Mollon


Institute Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN)
Projet de Réhabilitation du Réseau des Parcs Nationaux/World Bank (PREPAN)
Entreprise Communautaire pour une Action Allocentrique (ECO-ACTION)
Programme d’Intégration et de Développement du peuple Pygmée/Nord Kivu (PIDP)
Aide et Action pour la Paix (AAP)
Gorilla Organisation (GO)
Africa Conservation Fund (ACF)
UN Habitat
Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF)

RD 7/06/11