Leonardo DiCaprio told BBC news that he has contributed to a campaign that aims to support and protect one of Africa’s most historical and ecologically significant nature reserve – the Virunga National Park.
Located in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Virunga is considered one of the last true havens for biodiversity left on Africa and elsewhere. However, a violent guerrilla attack that killed 12 rangers last month has also illustrated how vulnerable the reserve is to outside forces.
Moreover, Covid-19 continues to threat the well-being of both the facility and the gorillas. Virunga has been a popular tourist spot, yet the global pandemic and the complete lack of visitors because of it have impacted the national park financially.
Scientists believe that the mountain gorillas may also be in danger because of the novel coronavirus. As one of the closest relatives to humans in a genetical sense, primatologists believe that gorillas are also prone to getting the virus.
Knowing the dire situation that the park is in, Earth Alliance has donated $2 million to the national park. DiCaprio is one of the co-founders of Earth Alliance. How much of the $2 million came from the actor has not been disclosed.
DiCaprio, known for his activism on wildlife diversity, is not unfamiliar with the Virunga. In 2014, he executively produced the eponymous nature documentary. “Virunga” was nominated for an Oscar that year.
DiCaprio told BBC news that he was deeply impressed with how the park rangers fought against illegal oil drillings when he was producing the documentary. He emphasized that it was important for everyone to come together in supporting both the animals and rangers through these unprecedented times.
On Monday, the park announced the establishment of the Virunga Fund. BBC reports that the fund includes donations from the European Commission, Emerson Collective, Global Wildlife Conservation along with DiCaprio’s Earth Alliance.
Last month, 17 people including 12 park rangers were attacked and killed by Rwandan militia. Although officials explained that the death of the rangers were collateral, it was still a severe blow to the park and the morale of the staff members.
The director of Virunga National Park said that the fund will focus on preventing the spread of the disease along with enforcing the law to prevent future catastrophes like the one that happened in April.
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