EU, DiCaprio, GWC commit $40 million to protect biodiversity

EU, DiCaprio, GWC commit $40 million to protect biodiversity

Global Wildlife Conservation has announced a $40 million partnership with the European Union and Earth Alliance co-founder Leonardo DiCaprio in support of efforts to address global environmental crises and protect the planet's biodiversity.

The partnership will work to advance two initiatives — Rapid Response for Ecosystems, Species and Communities Undergoing Emergencies (Rapid RESCUE) and an effort to safeguard one of the most biodiverse protected areas on the African continent, Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With its $35.6 million budget, Rapid RESCUE will focus on reducing the impacts of emerging and future threats to biodiversity — including those caused by COVID-19, fires, hurricanes, and other natural disasters and emergencies — on ecosystems critical to the planet's health, protected areas, and surrounding communities. According to GWC, the pandemic and a sharp decline in ecotourism have resulted in a funding deficit for protected areas and has led, in some places, to an uptick in poaching, mining, cattle ranching, and wildlife trafficking.

The $4.4 million Virunga National Park initiative will work to expand the park's operational capacity, support innovations in habitat restoration and the reintroduction of wildlife species, and boost the park's role in the region's economic growth and stability. 

"[This year] has proven to be an extraordinarily difficult year for Virunga and in particular for the team on the ground," said park director Emmanuel De Merode. "We have suffered tremendous loss, yet this partnership fosters renewed hope in the future and will enable us to maintain our critical work to protect the park, its wildlife, and surrounding communities."

"Our planet's biodiversity underpins healthy ecosystems, which are essential to a healthy planet for people and wildlife," said GWC chief scientist and CEO Wes Sechrest. "Only by investing in nature-based solutions, as GWC and the European Commission are doing, can we tackle the twin crises of wildlife extinction and climate change, and prevent future pandemics."

(Photo credit: Global Wildlife Conservation)