The Virunga Massif is a vestige of Central Africa’s tropical biodiversity but myriad threats are placing the region’s critical ecosystems and species at risk. Spanning Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park, the massif is home to the endangered mountain gorilla, one of the world’s largest and most threatened primates. Though their habitats are protected within national parks, these great apes have historically been killed by poachers, threatened with human encroachment into protected forests, and have been threatened as civil strife uprooted the dynamics of its landscapes. In the early 1980s, mountain gorilla numbers in the Virunga Massif area (not including the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest populations) were as few as 230 individuals.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (or CITES) is meeting in Geneva, Switzerland from August 17-28, 2019. African Wildlife Foundation’s Vice President, Species Conservation and Science Dr. Philip Muruthi has attended every meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES since 1997. He explains why bringing together wildlife range States, wildlife conservation organizations, and community groups from across the world is so important for the sustainable conservation of Africa’s wildlife species.
In the last decade, international wildlife trade records have traced new routes and demand centers for lion commodities. Export data shows a shift in how the iconic big cat species move across the globe — hunting trophies, once the principal lion export, are not the only lion product leaving range states in Africa. Lion skeletons, bodies, and bones are increasingly reaching countries in Southeast Asia, where lion bone items have never been used before.
Once a refuge to huge populations of forest and savanna elephants, chimpanzees, bongos, and elk — as well as increasingly rare big cats like leopards and lions — the Mbomou-Uele region along the Democratic Republic of Congo’s northeast border is now a shadow of its former self having lost swathes of biodiversity over decades-long civil war. Violent militias infiltrated the remote landscape encompassing the Bili-Uele Protected Area Complex, Garamba National Park in DRC as well as the Chinko reserve in eastern Central African Republic. As they wreaked havoc on villages near these protected areas and displaced thousands of people, the heavily armed rebels also decimated species for the illegal wildlife trade.
Lakica Diana never dreamt that her passion for wildlife would translate into a career allowing her to protect some of Uganda's most vulnerable species. For the past nine years, she has lived in the Murchison Community Conservancy, near Uganda’s famed Murchison Falls National Park — growing increasingly fond of its wildlife, and even developing a hobby of drawing her favorite animals. The elephant, despite being one of the more frequent ‘visitors’ to her homestead, is still her best-loved muse. Since April 2019, Diana leads the team of community wildlife scouts securing the conservancy. The 21-year-old head scout has broken the mold to seek out a life she could hardly have imagined, especially when she was a young girl doing household chores, and even after the birth of her daughter when she was 18.