Congo Rejects UK Bid to Drill for Oil in World's Only Remaining Mountain Gorilla Habitat

Virunga park mountain gorilla photo

Image: Rachel Cernansky

This doesn't seem a victory so much as common sense, but these days those aren't mutually exclusive. The Democratic Republic of Congo's Environment Minister Jose Endundo has rejected a bid by UK oil firm Soco International to search for oil in Virunga National Park, part of the region that the world's only remaining and critically endangered mountain gorillas call home.The BBC reports that environmental groups warn that drilling for oil in the park would damage its ecosystem, which is one of the most biodiverse in the world, and would increase tension in the volatile area, but that Soco denies such a risk—and will continue oil exploration on the Ugandan side of the border.

Unesco has warned repeatedly against oil exploration in the area.

The DRC government will now conduct its own environmental assessment on oil exploration in Virunga and the surrounding region—which also seems worrisome.

Allard Blom, director of the World Wildlife Fund's Congo program, said: "What we hope to see next is a firm declaration guaranteeing there will be no exploration in this pristine park now or in the future. Allowing oil exploration in this iconic park would set an extremely dangerous precedent that even the most precious places on earth are open for oil and gas development."

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