Watch a video from National Geographic about the problems facing Virunga National Park.
Courtesy of WildlifeDirect
Conservationist Emmanuel de Merode
One of the world's great wildlife sanctuaries is literally going up in smoke. The hardwood forests of Virunga National Park in Central Africa are being cut down to support a lucrative — and illegal — trade in charcoal. If the destruction continues at its present rate, most of the trees in southern Virunga will be gone in a decade.
Virunga, founded in 1925, includes the mountains where the late anthropologist Dian Fossey did her research for the book Gorillas in the Mist. But endangered mountain gorillas, several of which were recently found murdered execution-style, are just part of the story.
"There are more mammal, bird and reptile species in Virunga than in any other park in Africa, and possibly even the world," says Emmanuel de Merode, a conservationist who is working with rangers to save the park.
Virunga's problems stem from its location in what has become a war zone. Most of the nearly 2 million-acre park is situated in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But portions sprawl into Rwanda and Uganda.