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INTERVIEW

“Our action is focused on the issue of climate change”

José Endundo Bononge

Minister of Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism, DRC

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a country that is very concerned with environmental and conservation issues. God has blessed us with a huge biodiversity; we are the first African country in terms of biodiversity, we are one of the five large countries in terms of biodiversity. We have mountain gorillas as well as lowland gorillas – in the East and the West of the country – which is extraordinary for such a large country. The DRC is proud to have three out of the four species of great ape and together, we want to be able to preserve this wealth, to save this blessing which makes this country so diverse, so rich in eco- systems of all kinds; mountains, lowlands, water sources. The Congo represents half of Africa’s water sources. It is the World’s second lung and everything that places value in this richness is of greatest interest to us.

Five weeks ago, I took five ambassadors from Europe to visit the gorillas in Kahusi-Biega. It was marvellous to see this rare spe- cies, these animals so close to us. They have a colossal strength and presence but at the same time demonstrate this need to share this richness, this forest with us. It was fascinating. Every time I see gorillas I see the power concentrated within them but also their fragility in relation to the environment. In the East of the country we have a few problems because we are still in the process of pacification. We still have pockets of insecurity and we are therefore confronted with the issue of having to save both peace and the gorillas, having to save our natural wealth which is our

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most prized possession. This heavy responsibility is mine, but also that of the highest level of the state – the head of state is very concerned by these problems, as well as my entire team – the ICCN, the entire administration who want this patrimony, which is nowadays not just a Congolese patrimony but a global one, to be preserved, to be saved, to be enriched. This is our chal- lenge; this is the challenge of the DRC and of those responsible for it today and in the future. How do we ensure that mankind’s progress goes hand-in-hand with the conservation of nature, with the preservation of what is so intimately linked to the pro- cesses of life? That is the challenge we face.

I can tell you that today our action is focused on the extremely important issue of climate change. Forests are linked to cli- mate change and without gorillas and the other species, there are no forests. These species cannot survive without forests and so everything is interlinked and links back to the future of hu- mans as well. There is no future for humans without forests, without water, without these great apes, without all the things that make up the grandeur and uniqueness of our lives. Hu- man life is also linked to the lives of great apes and the lives of the other species we have in this country. Therefore, the ques- tions of climate change, forests, water – without water there are no forests, especially tropical ones like ours – all become one and we have the historical obligation today to defend them for humankind.

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