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War in Congo between conservationists and commercial exploiters

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Virunga NP, Congo.

There is a war raging in the Virunga National Park between rangers who are protecting wildlife and those commercial enterprises who wish to exploit this two million acre reserve on the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo which is known for its rare animals and for this war. This is a battle which is symbolic of the African continent where there are those who want to exploit the continent’s mineral riches and deforest the landscape and those who want to protect and conserve nature and the wild animals that live in it.

In the latest deadly battle, at least six park rangers were killed and others seriously wounded. It happened yesterday and they were guarding endangered species. The park is African’s oldest and most besieged. The total number of rangers killed over the past 12 months is at least 18.

Virunga NP. Photo in public domain.

The rebel groups want control over the mineral riches in the park. Over the past decade two hundred rangers have been killed. There was a lengthy firefight in which two of the rebels were killed during a morning raid. Described as a “beacon of hope” there was an unexpected arrival of 580 elephants to the park from adjacent Uganda.

Over recent years thousands of civilians have been killed in these battles with armed groups. Thousands more have left their homes to leave the area to seek safety. Virunga NP was founded in 1925. At the time the Congo was a Belgian colony. It has one of the largest rainforest in the world. About 700 rangers are employed to protect its wildlife. About a quarter of the world’s last critically endangered mountain gorillas live there. There are about 1000 left.

As I said, conservation can come down to firefights at the sharp end. Africa is blessed with wildlife and also blessed with minerals which are vital to the manufacture of modern technological devices. That’s why China is in Africa in a big way. And that’s why the leaders of Africa welcome the Chinese. They bring money and expertise but they also exploit. I suspect that the Africans are naïve in comparison to the Chinese who have sophisticated methods to get their way.

China manufacturers the world’s goods. They’re constantly seeking the raw materials to make those products. They drive consumerism. Consumerism needs to be curbed in the interests of sustainability. It is time for a change in attitude as highlighted by Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales. He warns that the world is at a tipping point. He started a campaign in which he has appealed to businesses to join his crusade for sustainable growth.

The objective of his campaign, called Terra Carta, is, in his words “to bring prosperity into harmony with nature, people and the planet over the coming decade.”

He wants the leaders of the world both political and in business to “mobilise [the] financial resources, technical ingenuity and institutional innovation required to pursue [his goals and targets]”. He believes the world is at a time when the it should shift to a more sustainable, equitable and prosperous trajectory.”

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