At the epicenter of the long-running civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo lies Virunga National Park, Africa’s oldest national park in the border triangle of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park is home to more than 200 of the only 900 mountain gorillas remaining in the world. Here, a small but dedicated force of forest rangers risk their lives to save one of the world’s greatest and most vulnerable species.

The Year of the Gorilla is an official supporter of the documentary “Return to Virunga: The Battle to Save the Mountain Gorillas”, which follows the rangers as they return to Virunga after having been banished by rebels from the park for more than a year. What will the rangers, led by their intrepid new warden, find when they return home? What does the future hold for Congo’s mountain gorillas? Can these great apes still be saved?

You can watch the 2 minute trailer!!!

One of the main goals of this film is to raise awareness and promote projects benefiting gorilla conservation. With “Return to the Virunga – The Battle to Save the Mountain Gorillas”, several non governmental organizations came up to support thsi new gorilla documentary written, directed, and produced by Stefan Lovgren. Haunting footage vividly documents the immediate threats to gorillas and their habitat. This film focuses on raising awareness of the plight of the gorillas and for the potential of long-term gorilla conservation.

Because of the dangerous conditions caused by rebel troops, rangers were forced to evacuate the Virunga gorilla sector for an extended period. The massive illegal charcoal trade is rapidly destroying the natural habitat. With most of the gorillas habituated to the presence of humans, this forced ranger pullout put gorillas at great risk from poachers. Although most poaching is directed towards other wildlife, gorillas are sometimes caught in snares, leading to crippling injuries and sometimes death.

Also, animal trafficking is still a very lucrative business, with baby gorillas being sold for as much as twenty thousand dollars. Thousands of displaced people using huge quantities of charcoal have built their camps in its immediate vicinity, and the massive illegal charcoal trade is rapidly destroying the natural habitat. Five gorillas were shot and killed in a 2007 attack linked to the charcoal trade, causing international outrage.

Finally, a deal was struck, allowing the rangers to re-enter the park after a year of absence and conservation activities have since been implemented, but suffering for the gorillas as well as the Congolese people is still very prevalent – many people have only the water collected from their rooftops to drink.

Surprisingly, in this region torn by war, riddled with poverty and disease, as well as stricken with weak government and law enforcement, numbers of Mountain Gorillas are actually growing, albeit at very low level. With the enormous potential for tourism revenue, as can be witnessed in neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda, gorilla conservation can also be an important contribution to sustainable livelihoods in Africa.

The Congolese Wildlife Authority (ICCN) and its rangers work throughout the country to protect the national parks of Congo and their wildlife from poachers, rebel groups, illegal miners, and land invasions. Over 150 rangers have been killed in the last 10 years protecting the 5 parks in eastern DRC. Virunga National Park (established in 1925) is Africa’s oldest national park and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

“Return to Virunga: The Battle to Save the Mountain Gorillas”
Written, Produced and Filmed by Stefan Lovgren Edited by Sam West / Narrated by D. Paul Thomas / Music by Cameron West Running Time: 44 Minutes

For details about the movie contact: Stefan Lovgren
Tel. 1-213-477-4931