We watched an excellent documentary called Virunga at DOXA tonight. I highly recommend it if you get a chance to watch it.
The film is about the ongoing work of the park rangers in Virunga National Park in the Congo, who risk their lives to protect the animals from poachers and mercenaries, in the midst of a bloody civil war. The park is home to the last mountain gorillas in the world – a critically endangered species numbering under 1000. Footage of 4 orphaned gorillas provides much of the uplifting moments in what is otherwise a very tense film. A lot of the documentary was shot while the M23 rebel group was fighting with the government in and around the park.
The newest threat to Virunga is from British oil company SOCO, who is exploring for oil in the park. Fucking oil companies. The film includes some depressing hidden camera footage of SOCO employees talking about their opinions of the Congolese and how extracting oil is more important than protecting wildlife. According to a statement from SOCO read after the film, those employees no longer work for SOCO and their opinions are not reflective of the company. Everyone in the audience had a good laugh at that.
Richard Branson, Desmond Tutu, and Howard G Buffet wrote a great article a few weeks ago – New Troubles at the Gates of Virunga – that provides more information on what is happening in Virunga.
As ridiculous as it is to think an oil company might start drilling in a national park and UNESCO world heritage site, the situation isn’t that much better in Canada. The BC government recently amended the provincial parks law to open up our parks to resource extraction. And in Newfoundland, Gros Morne National Park almost lost its UNESCO status due to proposed fracking near the parks boundaries.