In his post, DiCaprio also mentions the attack that took place in the conservation area last month. On the 24th of April twelve rangers lost their lives while trying to protect a number of civilians whose convoy was ambushed by around 60 armed men believed to belong to a Rwandan rebel militia. The convoy’s driver was also killed.
The threats of terrorism, deforestation, the illegal extraction of oil and coal, poaching and trafficking loom over Virunga on a daily basis. At the moment, it’s also facing the impact of the Ebola epidemic and coronavirus pandemic. The reserve has been closed until the 1st of June in an attempt to protect park rangers, tourists and even gorillas, who share 98 per cent of their DNA with humans, from the risk of coronavirus infections.
“I had the great honour of meeting and supporting Virunga’s courageous team in their fight against illegal oil drilling in 2013,” DiCaprio told the BBC. “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,” he said.
DiCaprio – who won an Oscar in 2016 for his performance in The Revenant – is the executive producer of Virunga, a documentary about the park released in 2014. Together with technology company Apple, the actor and activist has also raised 12 million dollars to help people affected by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as contributing to the launch of America’s Food Fund, which aims to relieve the food crisis caused by the virus.