Press Release

March 15, 2017



Director of Virunga National Park aims to raise $1 million in 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon fundraising drive.

Emmanuel de Merode, Chief Warden and Director of Virunga National Park, will be running the Virgin Money London Marathon on 23rd April 2017 with the aim of raising $1 million to help safeguard the future of the park that is home to the last of the world’s mountain gorillas. 

In 2014 De Merode was left fighting for his life following a roadside assassination attempt. Shot multiple times, he was lucky to escape with his life. Just three years later, he is gearing up to run in his first long distance race. 

For De Merode, a renowned conservationist, there are many reasons to get involved in the event.  “I hope that running the Virgin Money London Marathon can help us raise crucial funds to support the work we are undertaking in Virunga” De Merode said. 

Located in eastern Congo, Virunga National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has been at the centre of conflict and conservation threats. This has had a significant impact on the Park’s wildlife populations and communities. De Merode, along with over 600 Park rangers, face great risks from armed groups and poachers in their work to protect the Park. UK charity the Virunga Foundation, which holds the management contract for the Park, has spearheaded the Virunga Alliance - a programme working to bring peace and prosperity through the responsible sustainable development of the Park’s resources. This includes investment in ambitious infrastructure projects, such as the Mutwanga and Matebe Hydroelectric facilities, providing clean energy to the region for the first time, pioneering the creation of a real green economy in eastern Congo. 

“We have a unique opportunity to raise $1 million to kickstart an endowment fund that will support our dedicated rangers - over 150 of whom have been killed in the line of duty,” De Merode stated. “I was extremely fortunate to have survived the attempt that was made on my life in 2014. I was able to see my family again and return to my work with Virunga, but many of our rangers have not been so lucky.  The role of Virunga National Park ranger is one of the most dangerous in conservation. As the biggest employer in the region, our staff each have an average of six dependents. We are committed to supporting the widows and families of rangers killed or injured in the line of duty, and so this endowment fund will ensure their security for decades to come.”

Thanks to the generous offer from Paul Leander-Engström through his organisation The World We Want Foundation, every donation, up to a total of $500,000 will be matched. 

“With this generous contribution,” De Merode commented, “there has never been a better time to donate to Virunga National Park.”

Virunga has many high profile supporters, including Leonardo DiCaprio, HRH Duke of Cambridge, Sir Richard Branson, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Edward Norton, Jessica Chastain and Jane Fonda, all of whom have expressed support for the Park’s essential conservation work. 

Find out more about Emmanuel de Merode’s fundraising campaign on the Virunga website or make a donation via his Virgin Money Giving page


Notes to Editor:

The Virunga National Park (Parc National des Virunga), in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, was established in 1925 as Africa's first national park and is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site since 1979. In recent years poaching and the Congo Civil War have seriously damaged its wildlife population. The park is managed by the Congolese National Park Authorities, the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) and its partner, UK charity the Virunga Foundation

In 2014, the park featured in the Academy Award nominated Virunga, documenting the threats facing the park from encroachment by a UK oil company.

Emmanuel de Merode was appointed as Chief Warden and Deputy Director of the Virunga National Park in 2008. In April 2014, De Merode suffered life threatening injuries when was shot in an ambush whilst travelling from the provincial capital of Goma to the Virunga National Park Headquarters in Rumangabo. 

Born of a Congolese commitment to the protection of Virunga National Park, the Virunga Alliance aims to foster peace and prosperity through the responsible economic development of natural resources for four million people who live within a day’s walk of the Park’s borders.

Paul Leander-Engström is the Founder and Chairman of The World We Want Foundation (3W), supporting social entrepreneurs in Haiti, India, Africa and Latin America. 3W first partnered with Virunga National Park in 2013 to support the Park’s ambitious plan to use natural resources for sustainable socio-economic development to secure its future and enhance peace and stability in the region. The World We Want Foundation is supporting Emmanuel de Merode’s Virgin Money London Marathon fundraising campaign by matching every donation made, up to a total of $500,000. 

For further details, please contact Emma Norton:  

Copyright © 2017 Virunga Foundation, All rights reserved.

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