WWF Canada Blog:

News, views and analysis from our team as we work to create solutions to conservation challenges facing our planet.

Virunga is a world away, but it reminds me of a place I know

I confess: two months ago, I had never heard of Virunga National Park. Now, as WWF’s global emergency campaign intensifies to protect this African ecological treasure from the threat of oil exploration, I see references to Virunga almost daily.

Like the over one hundred thousand people worldwide who have signed our petition to draw the line, I am suddenly concerned about the future of Virunga. It is a remarkable place, home to fully a quarter of the world’s remaining critically-endangered mountain gorillas, and to more species of animals than any other protected park in Africa. It is one of the world’s extraordinary places of biodiversity and beauty, and the source of economic and social benefits that sustain entire cultures and communities.  Its unique value has earned international recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And all of this is poised to fall to our insatiable demand for oil.

Mountain gorillas, Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo

© Martin Harvey/ WWF-Canon
Mountain gorilla Mother and young Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo

Virunga is a world away, but it reminds me of a place I know.

Like Virunga, the Great Bear coast is a rare global treasure. This part of the BC coast is the meeting place of one of the world’s last remaining intact coastal temperate rainforests and some of the world’s most productive seas. The region sustains more sheer life per square meter than almost any other place on Earth, and is home to rare and endangered species from immense Fin whales to tiny Marbled Murrelets. Like Virunga, the Great Bear is a place of extraordinary beauty and rich resources that support millennia-old cultures and a growing modern economy. The model of sustainability forged here by First Nations, the BC and Canadian governments, forest companies, and conservation organizations have earned international accolades and WWF’s Gift to the Earth award. And like Virunga, the Great Bear is threatened by a proposal to transform this coast into the backdrop for oil industry expansion – in this case, oil pipelines and oil tankers.

Grizzly bear cubs, Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada

© Andrew S. Wright/ WWF-Canada
Grizzly bear cubs (Ursus arctos horribilis) shelter in the long sedges of spring in Khutze Estuary , Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada

I am not naïve enough to think that the world will stop using oil tomorrow. Like most Canadians, I am not yet ready to give up all the oil-dependent goods, services, and activities my family benefits from. But the science is clear that it’s long past time to get serious about the transition off fossil fuels. And as we wind down our dependence on oil, we can also stand firm to protect some of the world’s most precious places. Join WWF as we draw the line.