Poaching has increased tenfold, especially in Africa where twelve park rangers were killed at Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The rangers were accompanying a driver and four civilians for protection, but all were killed by sixty militiamen.
According to BBC News, Virunga is a UNESCO World Heritage site for endangered mountain gorillas which had to shut down because of the pandemic.
As gorillas share 98% of human DNA, they are at risk of the virus the same as us. Closing the park has drastically reduced its funding.
Thankfully, some of the mega-rich of Hollywood have been stepping up to the plate to help the animals who cannot help themselves.
Leonardo DiCaprio, who starred in James Cameron’s Titanic, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Romeo and Juliet, as well as other top films, has co-founded a group called Earth Alliance that will help support the park, and he donated part of the two million dollar startup costs.
The European Commission, Global Wildlife Conservation, and Emerson Collective have also contributed funds.
Leonardo DiCaprio has been involved in environmental issues for many years. In 2016, he hosted Before the Flood, a documentary with top scientists to promote awareness of climate change. Since the pandemic, he has founded America’s Food Fund in order to fight hunger in the United States.
As of May 18, 2020, the charity has raised twenty-six million dollars. In 2013, Leonardo DiCaprio was one of the executive producers on the documentary Virunga which was released the following year and nominated for an Oscar award.
In a statement released by BBC News, he commented, “I had the great honor of meeting and supporting Virunga’s courageous team in their fight against illegal oil drilling in 2013.
Virunga urgently needs funds to protect the endangered mountain gorilla population, to provide support to the rangers and the families of rangers who have fallen in the line of duty, and to help deliver essential disease prevention efforts.”
In July of 2019, Leonardo DiCaprio and Earth Alliance committed five million dollars to the protection of the Amazon rainforest as burning escalated from ranchers clearing land for cattle.
Its website describes Virunga National Park, Africa’s oldest national park. It covers three thousand square miles of the Congo from the Rwenzori “Mountains of the Moon” in the north traveling south to the Virunga Massif, but it is located in an area that has been plagued by war for over twenty years.
The southern part includes the dormant volcano, Mikeno, and Lake Edward is located in the central area. There are usually seven hundred rangers on staff who daily risk their lives to protect the park and its inhabitants.
The park hosts twenty-two species of endangered gorillas and chimpanzees and has two hundred and eighteen species of mammals including lions, hippos, and two different species of elephants. Seven hundred and six bird species call the park home as well as one hundred and nine reptile species and seventy-eight amphibian species.
When the park was established in 1925 it was called Parc Albert and consisted of just three mountains but since then has gradually expanded to its present size.
Nine years after the Congo gained independence from Belgium in 1960, the park was renamed Virunga National Park. In 1979, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in 2008, the Congolese National Park Authority and the Virunga Foundation formed a partnership to manage the property.