The World Wildlife Fund is celebrating the ten millionth tree planted around crucial endangered mountain gorilla habitat in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The tree-planting project, launched in 1987 for the area surrounding Virunga National Park, has continued despite sporadic armed conflicts in the region. The goal is to reduce the shortage of firewood for neighboring communities, staving off illegal wood harvesting and charcoal production within the park, a major threat for the protected area.
In time of peace, Virunga National Park is the DRC’s most visited place by tourists, who come to see the endangered mountain gorilla in its natural habitat.
However, the recent clashes between rebels and the regular army in the area are keeping people away. Over 300,000 people have fled the fighting, setting up makeshift camps along the edge of the park. Over the past two months, WWF provided over US$150,000 for purchasing wood to supply the camps. The wood comes from the plantations established through the WWF project.
“Today’s celebration is symbolic of the Congolese people’s determination to never give up hope even during times of armed conflict that surrounds them.”
WWF also announced the launch of a new forestry project, jointly funded by the European Union, which will help individuals and communities plant over 2,000 hectares in North Kivu during the next five years. (Nov 24, 2007)