Quantcast

Oscar Nominated 'Virunga' Instrumental in Protecting Africa's Oldest National Park

There's a critically acclaimed conservation documentary making waves. The film, Virunga won 23 international film awards in 2014, was a 2015 Academy Award nominee and is now up for an Oscar. It tells the story of a brave group of people defending Virunga National Park in the eastern Congo.

Founded in 1925 by King Albert I of Belgium, Virunga is Africa's oldest national park. The park has suffered serious setbacks in the last two decades as the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been ravaged by conflict, according to Save Virunga, an organization dedicated to protecting the park.

The movie received much buzz after Jane Goodall, a UN Messenger of Peace, called Virunga "A wake-up call." She said, "Everyone who cares about the future of the planet must see this movie." Last month, Bill and Hillary Clinton supported the film by attending the same screening as Leonardo DiCaprio, one of the films executive producers.

"Films like Virunga are powerful stories that are a window into the incredible cultural and natural diversity of our world, the forces that are threatening to destroy it and the people who are fighting to protect it," said DiCaprio.

Virunga is one of the most bio-diverse places on Earth and home to some of the planet’s last remaining mountain gorillas. The park, a UNESCO world heritage site, is besieged by armed militia, poachers and an oil company. The park has survived through the Congo's turbulent history because of dedicated park rangers and concerned politicians. "Virunga National Park is life for the community," says park ranger Andre Bauma. The mountain gorillas "are my life."

Virunga National Park is home to some of the world's last remaining mountain gorillas. Photo credit: Virunga the Movie

The park's protection comes at a high cost. More than 140 park rangers have been killed in the last 15 years by armed forces who want to exploit the park for its rich natural resources, according to the film's director, Orlando von Einsiedel.

Thanks to widespread attention from the film, SOCO International, the oil company featured in the film, reached an agreement with the World Wildlife Fund, in which it promised to halt its exploratory operations in the park unless the Congo and UNESCO agreed it would not threaten the park's world heritage status. However, more work needs to be done to protect the park and its inhabitants, which is why Save Virunga, WWF and other organizations continue to fight for the park's protection.

Armed forces operated in the park for decades during Congo's civil war. Photo credit: Virunga the Movie

On Feb. 7, more good news came when the Church of England, one of SOCO’s major shareholders, announced that "unless the company [SOCO] made real assurances that they were never going to exploit oil in this park and to answer all the allegations, they were going to withdraw all of their shares,” said von Einsiedel. “So it’s working. There’s a lot to hope for.”

In order to reach the widest audience possible, the film was released on Netflix late last year.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Racing Extinction: A Must-See Documentary of 2015, World Premier at Sundance

'How to Change the World' Traces the Birth of Greenpeace, World Premier at Sundance

10 Animal Species That Could Vanish in 2015 if We Don't Act Now

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A timelapse video shows synthetic material and baby fish collected from a plankton sample from a surface slick taken off Hawaii island. Honolulu Star-Advertiser / YouTube screenshot

A team of researchers led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration didn't intend to study plastic pollution when they towed a tiny mesh net through the waters off Hawaii's West Coast. Instead, they wanted to learn more about the habits of larval fish.

Read More Show Less
Two silver-backed chevrotain caught on camera trap. The species has only recently been rediscovered after being last seen in 1990. GWC / Mongabay

By Jeremy Hance

VIETNAM, July 2019 – I'm chasing a ghost, I think not for the first time, as night falls and I gather up my gear in a hotel in a village in southern Vietnam. I pack my camera, a bottle of water, and a poncho; outside the window I can see a light rain.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Flooding in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina on Sept. 11, 2005. NOAA Photo Library / Lieut. Commander Mark Moran

The most destructive hurricanes are three times more frequent than they were a century ago, new research has found, and this can be "unequivocally" linked to the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less

By George Citroner

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and the World Health Organization currently recommend either 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise (walking, gardening, doing household chores) or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise (running, cycling, swimming) every week.

But there's little research looking at the benefits, if any, of exercising less than the 75 minute minimum.

Read More Show Less
Mary Daly, president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, poses for a photograph. Nick Otto / Washington Post / Getty Images

It seems the reality of the climate crisis is too much for the Federal Reserve to ignore anymore.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Passengers trying to reach Berlin's Tegel Airport on Sunday were hit with delays after police blocked roads and enacted tighter security controls in response to a climate protest.

Read More Show Less
A military police officer in Charlotte, North Carolina, pets Rosco, a post-traumatic stress disorder companion animal certified to accompany him, on Jan. 11, 2014. North Carolina National Guard

For 21 years, Doug Distaso served his country in the United States Air Force.

He commanded joint aviation, maintenance, and support personnel globally and served as a primary legislative affairs lead for two U.S. Special Operations Command leaders.

But after an Air Force plane accident left him with a traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and chronic pain, Distaso was placed on more than a dozen prescription medications by doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Read More Show Less
(L) Selma Three Stone Engagement Ring. (R) The Greener Diamond Farm Project. MiaDonna

By Bailey Hopp

If you had to choose a diamond for your engagement ring from below or above the ground, which would you pick … and why would you pick it? This is the main question consumers are facing when picking out their diamond engagement ring today. With a dramatic increase in demand for conflict-free lab-grown diamonds, the diamond industry is shifting right before our eyes.

Read More Show Less