The okapi game reserve is home to a sizeable population of endangered okapis.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the only country where this species still exists. But rampant gold mining in the Unesco World Heritage area – namely by the Chinese company Kimia – is a major concern.
Only 30,000 okapis still live in the wild – and their habitat is inexorably shrinking.
5,000 of the remaining animals are at home in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, where many other endangered species such as chimpanzees and 376 species of birds can be observed.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the countries with the highest biodiversity and therefore has a special responsibility to protect its forests, which are essential in the fight against the climate crisis.
Unfortunately, the illegal mining of gold is rampant there, destroying forests, damaging the natural habitats of numerous animal and plant species, polluting water bodies with toxic substances such as mercury, and impairing the health of local and indigenous peoples.
The open pit mines attract people in search of a livelihood, which increases the hunt for the meat of wild animals.
At the center of the current development is the Chinese company Kimia Mining, based in Bunia, which has received illegitimate permits from the mining ministry and is working in the semi-industrial style within the reserve.
According to a United Nations report, senior officers in the Congolese army, FARDC, are involved in illegal mining activities.
Because militias also earn money from the extraction of raw materials, it is closely linked to violence in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Basically, it would be easy to protect nature: mining violates environmental laws and the Mining Act, which prohibit environmentally harmful activities.
Article 53 of the Constitution also gives everyone the right and duty to defend the environment.
We therefore ask President Tshisekedi and the government to implement the laws and end mining in the Okapi Game Reserve and other protected areas.
The Okapi Wildlife Reserve is not the only protected area in the Congo that is threatened by mining and the exploitation of raw materials: In the Virunga National Park, gorilla habitat may be destroyed by the search for oil; in the Itombwe Nature Reserve gold mining will also lead to this.
Four of the five world heritage areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are therefore on the list “World Heritage in Danger”, the fifth has only just been removed from the list because the government abandoned plans for oil production in Salonga National Park after international pressure.
The greed for gold – it is the danger in which the gorillas hover in the east of the Congo Basin.
The primate habitat has been shrinking for years.
The human population is growing and contesting their habitat*, hunters kill the great apes for their meat, militias make effective protection more difficult and keep tourists away who would bring some money.
Gray gorillas, a subspecies of the eastern gorilla, are now threatened with extinction.
The Canadian company Banro apparently entered the Itombwe reserve in June 2018, one of the last refuges for gray gorillas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The reason – again the gold!
Locals secretly photographed the company’s helicopters and informed the authorities.
Banro has secured mining concessions for more than 2,600 square kilometers in the Congo since the mid-1990s and has been operating two gold mines in Twangiza and Namoya for several years.
The population complains about land grabbing and displacement.
For the protection of Virunga and Itombwe, the organization “Save the rainforest “ campaigns with two petitions:
Please sign “No primate blood for oil” and “Gold threatens gorillas”.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the second largest state in Africa by area, as large as two thirds of the country
European Union and a little more than six times larger than Germany.
Due to its wealth of natural resources, the country could be one of the richest in Africa, but it is one of the poorest in the world.
The majority of the estimated 94 million inhabitants live in extreme poverty.
Around half of all children under the age of five are malnourished.
Political instability, wars, violence and corruption characterize everyday life.
There are more than 70 armed groups operating in the east of the country;
A country that is so rich in mineral resources, water and fertile soil would have every chance of securely supplying its population and preserving its natural and animal populations.
Peace and political stability are urgently needed to curb corruption, violence, poverty and hunger
*P.S: I have something to correct in the article: “The human population is growing and contesting their habitat …” that is not correct.
If Congo is six times bigger than Germany and has “only” 94 million inhabitants, (Germany has 83 million) then it is not the growth of the Congo population that is the problem.
Overpopulation exists in Europe, but this is (not yet) a problem because Europe is plundering and exploiting Africa.
We don’t need to give anything to Africa.
We just have to stop robbing the continent.
My best regards to all, Venus