However, it very quickly became so compelling, beyond what we expected, that it became obvious that it wasn’t going to be a small ripple of a film.” This prediction was certainly accurate: ended up with Leonardo di Caprio as executive producer and an Oscars nod for Best Documentary Feature.
The film captured the heart-wrenching fight of de Merode and his rangers to combat the cycle of violence, war and corruption, as well as the sacrifice entailed; since 1996, 154 of 400 rangers employed in the Park have lost their lives and de Merode himself was the subject of an assassination attempt just a few weeks before the premiere.
“We’re living with this idea of environmental injustice.
We have about 2 million acres of some of the most fertile land in Africa, and around that you have 4 million people.
Virunga is one of three national parks sharing 3000 square miles of land at Africa’s geographical heart.
This latter gained global attention in 2007, when militias slaughtered five gorillas in the Park.
In 2008 the situation became even more fragile with the start of the CNDP War, whereby M23 rebels captured the Mikeno sector of the Park where the gorillas live, alongside the headquarters.
Crucially, SOCO has withdrawn its activities within the Park.
But perhaps more unexpectedly, it has become the best advertisement possible for de Merode’s great hope for the Park’s future: tourism. We’re absolutely not going to succeed in Virunga without it.