Virunga Park, in existence since 1925, is a failed experiment in wildlife conservation—make no mistake about it. Even the opportunistic baboon species, which is decimating the plantation forests of South Africa, was nowhere to be seen. Virunga is not the crown jewel of wildlife parks. In fact, UNESCO’s World Heritage Foundation has declared Virunga to be in peril with less than ten years of survival before the ecosystem totally collapses.
Yet, National Geographic quotes Emmanuel de Merode of Wildlife Direct as an encyclopedic source, and does not question De Merode’s hyperbole that “Virunga is the greatest national park on the planet.” Is the reader of National Geographic supposed to take this as a fact? Where is the rebuttal? Where is the vetting?
Is the fresh faced, white Belgian de Merode actually a public relations spinner for the Virunga Park—including the covert military operations in place there? Emmanuel de Merode is currently “on tour” in the United States with a National Geographic dog and pony show which is “premiering” a related video on the gorilla story that appears on FOX-owned National Geographic Channel. FOX Broadcasting is owned by Rupert Murdock’s news corporation. This is the same network that is ginning up support for an invasion of Iran as it did with Iraq. What is even more amazing is that PBS and the Charlie Rose Program have bought FOX’s version of Congo hook, line and sinker.
Is this the same technique used by MCA to sell a sordid “biography” of Dian Fossey on the networks in 1988? Linda Berkeley, now Executive Vice-President of National Geographic, was chairman of MCA Universal, having joined the company in 1990.
Is National Geographic recreating a page from the past when it opened its cartographic archives to the Unites States World War II effort, providing intelligence and about enemy held territory and strategic interests? The Virunga Mountains, home of the mountain gorilla, straddles one of the most strategic pieces of real estate on the planet.
Why the huge Public Relations pitch for biodiversity—code for multinational interests and land grabs that rival what the United States did to the Native American Indian population? National Geographic oddly describes Wildlife Direct as a “nascent” organization, but fails to make the connection that the gorilla killings began shortly after Wildlife Direct arrived on the scene in DRC in late 2006.
It is a little like blaming the American Indian for the demise of the buffalo as the pioneers pushed west.
War and Torture Funds from Piggy Banks
Based in Nairobi, Kenya, Wildlife Direct was founded by Richard Leakey as a “joint project” with Wildlife Direct, Inc., a non-profit registered in the United States, and Africa Conservation Fund (UK), which is a registered charity.
Training of ICCN and Wildlife Direct’s elite “Congo Rangers” was funded by the European Union, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, UNESCO, the London Zoological Society, and the Frankfurt Zoological Society and managed under the technical guidance of former British mercenary Conrad Thorpe. This is all documented in a video available on the World Wide Web at http://www.vonplanta.net: “Congo 2006: Guns for Hire.” This video will figure into our discussion.
Leaky does not come to the equation without controversy. Both pitied and admired for his survival of a plane crash where sabotage has not been ruled out, Leakey lost both of his legs in the accident. In the spring of 1994, Leakey resigned or was forced out of his post as director of the Kenya Wildlife Service. The reason? Leakey was accused by the Kenyan government of favoring the wildlife interests over the needs and interests of local subsistence farmers. There are also allegations of financial mismanagement. Not missing a beat, Leakey formed his own political party, Safina, which is Swahili for “Noah’s Ark.”
So certain is Leakey of the world’s interest in wildlife over human concerns that he is quoted on his own webpage saying, “I believe there are tens of millions of people out there who care about wildlife and would be willing to make a two dollar donation to secure the future of wildlife.”
This background information is in itself a glaring omission, especially since Wildlife Direct has a blog that directly solicits money from school children in the United States. It seems as if USAID, the European Union, and Frankfurt Zoological Society funding for the elite Congo Rangers is not enough to fill the coffers. National Geographic omits this important background information.
Vanishing Web Links Whitewash History
There was no investigative scrutiny of the trustees of the Africa Wildlife Foundation, whose most prominent member is or was Walter Kansteiner III. Kansteiner is not a conservationist. He has over 20 years of experience in African and emerging market issues, advising corporations on mergers ranging from forestry, to mining to aviation. Kansteiner has publicly attacked South Africa’s Nelson Mandela as a “Marxist.” Kansteiner has also worked in the arena of strategic mineral procurement for the United States Defense Department. As of 2007, Kansteiner was listed on Source Watch (Center for Media and Democracy) as a director of Wildlife Direct, and Emmanuel de Merode identified Kansteiner as a board member in an email in 2007. Kansteiner has since vanished from the web links to Wildlife Direct. The Source Watch page was modified to remove Kansteiner in November 2007 after independent media reports linked him with Wildlife Direct.