Virunga: Conservation is War
(Above photograph shared from VirungaMovie)
Virunga - one of the most biologically diverse places on this planet, it’s home to lava-filled volcanos, lush mountains and forests teeming with water buffalo, lions, elephants and the last 500 remaining mountain gorillas in the world. The Netflix documentary Virunga, released in 2014 and now streaming, is a story following a group of rangers committed to the conservation of this park in the face of impending civil war and corruption schemes from oil tycoon Soco.
After watching this film, I found myself filled with awe for the rangers of African wildlife parks. These men and women sacrifice so much for the sake of the wildlife and ecological heritage of their nation. Living 24/7 with orphaned animal victims of poachers and consistently facing death at the hands of heavily armed poachers while on bush patrols is not your typical “day at the office” for most of us.
While the movie is predominately about protecting the few remaining mountain gorillas, the theme of the film is universal for all poaching crises:
Conservation is War.
The war is physical:
Since 1994, over 140 rangers at Virunga have been killed in the line of duty protecting the park from illegal poaching and land acquisition. But the physical nature of this war doesn’t stop there - a ranger’s greatest fear is not losing his life, but the impact their death will have on family members left behind without anyone to provide for their needs.
The war is political:
It’s not news that politicians are easily persuaded to turn a blind eye to the problem of poaching when it involves money. This film captures raw footage from undercover cameras of just how quickly corruption can occur at all levels of the political and conservation levels. But it’s not just in Africa. Soco, an oil company who definitely “encouraged” the corruption, is a company based in the UK. And here in the United States, while New York & New Jersey have outlawed the sale of ivory (with a few other states proposing such laws), there are groups like “Elephant Protection” who are lobbying politicians to ALLOW a legal market of ivory. And unfortunately, those who have the most money often win.
The war is passive:
No one seems to notice this war for conservation. The fact that there are only 500 mountain gorillas left in the world and that 80% of their park is set to be destroyed for the sake of oil… The fact that in the last three years alone, 100,000 elephants have been killed by poachers…The fact that worldwide, about 2 rangers are killed every week protecting wildlife in national parks…yet most people don’t know these facts! Why aren’t these facts making active news headlines? Apathy could be one large player. Apathy because these issues don’t directly affect our lives.
What can be done?
Help care for and protect orphaned animal victims of the illegal wildlife trade. Elephantopia has partnered with GRI Elephant Orphanage in Zambia to sponsor Kavala. It costs about $13,000USD a year to cover the costs of her food, shelter, and the rangers who care for her. We raise these funds with people like yourself. Please consider funding the conservation fight today. (And as a fully volunteer run organization, your donation has maximum impact for Kavala at the GRI Elephant Orphanage).
There’s a widespread movement to ban the sale of ivory in the United States, with New York and New Jersey leading the way. Just last month, France ruled to ban exportation of raw ivory and have plans for another ivory burn later this year. Wherever you live, take a minute to send THIS LETTER to your leaders asking for an ivory ban in your country.
Don’t sit idly by. Get involved. Spread the word. Conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall once said, we have a choice to use the gift of our lives to make the world a better place. So let’s get going! And make this world a better place for everyone, including every living being!