Who We Are
The Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) is the government’s National Parks Authority with a legal mandate to enforce the conservation laws that are designed to protect Congo’s flora and fauna. About 65% of Virunga’s staff, including all the rangers, are government officers.
Virunga Foundation formerly known as Africa Conservation Fund, is a UK-registered charity created in 2005 to help protect the flora and fauna of Virunga National Park. Since then, Virunga Foundation has worked in close partnership with the ICCN to raise global awareness about Virunga. Virunga Foundation has provided technical skills and solicited and secured funds to pay for improvements to the park’s wildlife protection systems and infrastructure. These investments have yielded tangible benefits to the park and people of North Kivu. Virunga Foundation has a management contract with ICCN through 2021 to help sustainably develop and manage the park. Much of Virunga Foundation’s funding has been secured from European Union. Virunga Foundation submits annual audit reports to the Charities Commission and to Companies House in the United Kingdom.
Virunga Fund Inc. (VFI) is a U.S.-based charity that exists to support conservation of Virunga National Park. VFI is a Section 501(c)(3) charitable and educational organization and a “public charity” for U.S. federal tax purposes. VFI makes grants from time to time to other organizations, like Virunga Foundation, for specific projects that further VFI’s mission and are consistent with the donor’s stated intent. VFI retains discretion of and control over the use of gifts and does not accept gifts that must in all events be transferred to other organizations. Donations to Virunga Fund are tax-deductible to the extent allowable by law.
Jan Bonde Nielsen
Chairman of the Board, the Virunga Foundation
Founder of Kenya’s horticultural export industry in the 1960s, Jan Bonde Nielsen, has played an active role in the charity FARM-Africa since its foundation. He is director of SIDAI, a veterinary organisation set up by FARM-Africa with the aid of a 5-million dollar grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Jan Bonde Nielsen’s career includes shipbuilding at Burmeister & Wain in Denmark, building of diesel power plants in Africa and Asia, and the privatisation and successful development of Batumi Oil Terminal on the Georgian coast of the Black Sea.
He has maintained a close connection with Africa throughout his career, and now lives primarily in Kenya at the Nguruman Wildlife Reserve. He is currently in the process of establishing a large-scale farming, processing, and trading organisation in Africa.
François-Xavier de Donnea
Member of the Board of Directors, the Virunga Foundation and Virunga Fund Inc.
François-Xavier de Donnea, a Belgian citizen, holds an MBA degree of the University of California at Berkeley and a Ph.D. in Economics of the Erasmus University of Rotterdam.
He started his career as Professor of Economics and Public management at the University of Louvain in Belgium.
He became a Member the Belgian Parliament in 1981. He served in the Belgian Government as Secretary of State for Development Cooperation and Minister of Defense. He also served as Mayor of Brussels and as Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region.
In the Belgian House of Representatives he served successively, since 2003, as Chairman of the Committee on Finance and Budget and as Chairman of the Committee on External Relations.
François-Xavier de Donnea has been President of the Sahel West-Africa Club of the OECD since 2009.
He has been Member of the Board of the Africa Conservation Fund (UK) and of Virunga Inc. (USA) since 2008.
He is presently Minister of State of Belgium (Member of the Crown Council).
For more information on F.X. de Donnea : www.dedonnea.irisnet.be
Emmanuel de Merode
Chief Warden of Virunga National Park; Member of the Board – the Virunga Foundation; Vice-President – Virunga Fund Inc.
Anthropologist, conservationist, pilot, Emmanuel worked to control the bushmeat trade and protect endangered wildlife in Central and Eastern Africa. His main focus has been support for African wildlife rangers in remote and difficult national parks and reserves. His work was primarily in the parks of eastern DRC, working to sustain the national parks through the DRC’s 15-year civil war.
In 2008 he was appointed by Congolese Government as Director for Virunga National Park. 360 rangers fall under his command and much of his work is focused on protecting the park’s exceptional wildlife, that include a critically important population of Mountain Gorillas, elephants, okapis and chimpanzees. Learn more
His first breakthrough was to broker an agreement between the Congolese Government and Rebel Leader Laurent Nkunda to spare the Mountain Gorilla Sector of the Park from the rages of the ongoing civil war and to enable government rangers to redeploy in rebel territory. Since 2008 he has led a team of Congolese rangers in an effort to de-militarise the national park, re-establish the rule of law in a park formerly controlled by rebel militias, initiate local development and bring a significant funding through social media, local enterprise and tourism development.
His work also includes the promotion of sustainable energy for poor households, as an alternative to forest destruction for charcoal, through the development of combustible briquettes, a new energy industry that is projected to create 30,000 jobs in post-conflict areas of eastern DRC.
Secretary & Treasurer, Virunga Fund Inc.
Gretchen Crary is the founder and CEO of February Media, a New York-based publicity company that services the publishing industry.
Before coming to publishing, Gretchen Crary was a television producer for the documentary program Frontline, for 60 Minutes, and for ABC News. She has an Emmy and a DuPont Gold Baton for her work with PBS’ Frontline series.
She graduated from Barnard College of Columbia University and also holds a Masters degree in International Relations from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Gretchen began campaigning in the US in support of Virunga in 2007 following the tragic mountain gorilla killings that year. Her work eventually led to the co-founding of Virunga Fund Inc.