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Following The Shooting Of Chief Warden, WWF Staff Receive Death Threats

gorillaBy LuAnne Cadd, via Wikimedia Commons

The World Wildlife Fund staff members have received death threats linked to the organization’s opposition to oil exploration in Virunga National Park.

Unidentified callers have threatened the personal safety of two employees working in the city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Angered by a staff member’s public statements about the negative impacts of oil, one caller said: “We want his head.”

lionessBy Ad Meskens, via Wikimedia Commons

According to the WWF, reports of intimidation have increased in the weeks since Virunga Chief Warden Emmanuel de Merode was shot multiple times in an ambush while driving alone in a park vehicle. An official investigation into the shooting is currently underway. The callers to WWF said that they had missed killing de Merode, but would not miss a WWF employee.

Tensions are high in Virunga National Park as UK oil company Soco International PLC conducts seismic tests in Lake Edward. The WWF condemns the testing and all exploratory activities in the protected World Heritage Site.

Opposition to Soco’s operations in Virunga is increasing worldwide. Last week, a DRC-based UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office secretary, Mark Power, reiterated the UK government’s position against oil exploration in the park. Nobel laureate and anti-Apartheid campaigner Desmond Tutu also spoke out on the issue recently. In an editorial, Tutu, Richard Branson of Virgin Group and philanthropist Howard G Buffett called Soco’s exploration illegal, and warned that it could be devastating.

At its meeting last year, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee issued a call for all Virunga exploration permits to be cancelled. The group of governments is set to take up the issue again next month during its annual gathering.

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