Virunga (2014) Script

[boy speaking Swahili]

[women bawling]

[speaking Swahili]

[men singing in Swahili]

[shouting orders]

[speaking Swahili] Protect us, and help us to account for each day of our lives.

[man] Oh, Congo.

Our dear Ranger Kasereka died trying to rebuild this country.

[newscaster 1] And that's Mr. Lumumba sitting second from the left among his ministers.


[newscaster 2] The Congo's richest province, Katanga, was set up as a separate state with the aid of a force of European mercenary soldiers.

A black man is like an animal to me.

[newscaster 2] Law and order broke down.



[helicopter blades whirring]

[crowd cheering]



[man 1 in French over radio] Charlie 5 says that the enemy is moving your way.

[man 2 speaking Swahili] If you listen carefully, they're shooting to show their presence.


[speaking French] This is an illegal settlement.

[man speaking English] It's from an elephant.



Some rebels.

[whispering in Swahili] Where are the people who were with you?

I don't know.

Quiet! Keep your voice down.

I don't know.

So where are they?

They've gone away.

Isn't this poaching?

It wasn't me.

The one who ran away is the one who killed it.

[man speaking over radio in Swahili]

[Katembo speaking French] Just as I'd finished primary school, we were recruited secretly in our town.

They told us, "You're leaving...

We're sending you to university.

To the best university in the world!"

You have to follow all orders given to you.

If you attempt to escape, they'll kill you.

My little brother Dona was 15 years old.

Among many dead bodies I found his.

There was nothing I could do.

After we buried him, we went on with the war.

But my mother insisted, "You must leave the army while you're still alive."

So I then escaped the army to dedicate my life to the National Park.


[speaking English] We're here at Senkwekwe Center in Rumangabo... where we have four orphan gorillas.

[speaking French] They are the only mountain gorillas in captivity in the world.

[speaking English] Ndakasi likes to play so much.


[speaking French] I have my human family.

I always tell them, "You are my family... but we have another family in Rumangabo... which is made up of four children."

There is Maisha, Kaboko, Ndeze and Ndakasi.

You know that until now we've had a big problem with poaching.

Poachers believe...

they can kill the parents and take the baby away for sale.

This is the way we got Maisha.

Maisha was taken from poachers who wanted to sell her.

She was rescued when she was three years old.

[speaking English] You can see here.


[speaking French] Today, she is about 10 years and six months.

Kaboko is the one-handed male.

He lost the other hand because of poaching.

Kaboko is a bit aggressive.

[Maisha shrieking]

[Bauma] Maisha!

But they have great affection for each other.

It is love.


[thunder rumbling]

When there was the massacre of our gorillas, I was out in the field.

I was among the rangers who discovered their bodies.

It was a great tragedy.

We had a total of nine gorillas killed.

The logic was that once the gorillas were killed, there would be no reason to protect the park anymore.

[men singing in Swahili]

[Bauma] Many people came to see what had happened to the gorillas.

They helped to transport their bodies.

It was like members of the family had died.


Ndeze and Ndakasi are the two gorillas that survived from that family.

Their mother and the rest were killed in 2007.

When I met her... she was really so weak, weak, weak!

It's truly an unbelievable thing... to see that she is alive, and this is the reason why I say, "I am not only a father..."

[speaking English] "I'm not a father but I'm a mother."

[speaking French] You know that these gorillas as you see them here, we're not keeping them just for the sake of keeping them.

We take care of them in order to one day release them back into the forest in good health.

[speaking French] The vowel "E."

Yes, good. Carry on.

This one, which vowel is it?

Underneath the vowel "E," which vowel is it?

I may die at any time in an ambush by people against the protection of the park.

Rangers commit to protect the park, under very dangerous conditions to their last breath.

130 rangers have died protecting Virunga.

I may die... though I don't know when.

-"I." -The vowel "I."

Our child is called Josue.

He is a small child in whom I see lots of hope.

I think he can become a scientist.

After he has studied...

You said he needs to study mathematics.

He can be like me for example, you know I am a biologist.

Since you're a biologist, he shouldn't become one, too.

He can be a geologist.

Yes, but it's still in the sciences.

Change is good!

[speaking indistinctly]

We don't want people of his generation to inherit a world or a country as broken as ours.

[newscaster speaking English] There are worrying reports that around a dozen different armed groups in the region are uniting against the Congolese army.

In a forest close to Congo's border with Rwanda, we meet members of the country's newest rebel army known as M23.

The Congolese army is in no mood for compromise.

It is sending in thousands of reinforcements to the front line.

These are dangerous times in Eastern Congo.

Fear has driven people out of these villages and farmland.

Only the weak and old have stayed on.

This isn't a war yet, but it could be soon... unless the guns are replaced with diplomacy.


[man speaking French] The Provincial Director of Virunga National Park.

[Emmanuel de Merode] Good morning, everyone.

I was anxious to drop by the station at morning roll-call.

Firstly, to greet you... but also because you will all have heard about the new troubles for the army.

We all hope it is a temporary situation that will be sorted out.

The army will manage the situation and activities will continue normally.

It's important to hope for the best, but also be ready for the worst.

[speaking English] I was sworn in as warden by the park authorities in Kinshasa in August 2008.

My work is to manage the park, to ensure that it's adequately protected.

And that the laws of the land are respected within its boundaries.

But also to sustainably develop the park's resources...

[speaking French] It's far, right?

[speaking English] bring greater prosperity to the local population, and stability to the region.

[speaking French] I was appointed Station Chief in June 2006 by the Kinshasa office to assume management of Virunga's central sector.

We are at the heart of the Rwindi Hotel here... it is here that the late President Mobutu Sese Seko's distinguished guests stayed, and that is where the President himself spent the night whenever he came here.

[monkeys gibbering]


War has ruined everything.

When I see it destroyed like this, I am deeply unhappy.

[flies buzzing]

When we started managing this sector in May 2010, there was almost nothing because there were soldiers everywhere.

However, now there are antelopes, warthogs, elephants, lions, and a significant number of hippos.

So there is hope, and even buffalos are coming back.

We are sure that in the next five years the animal population will re-establish itself as before.

[all singing]

[greeting in Swahili]

[Bauma] Kaboko!





[clears throat]

[speaking French] You know that the gorillas we have here at the Senkwekwe Center, as they grow, they become more intelligent.

They also gain weight and become stronger and stronger.

Even stronger than us.

So you need to know their psychology to care for them.

You cannot force them to do something because if they decide to be stubborn, you will have difficulties.



[de Merode chuckling]

She wants everything for herself.

[Bauma] That is the reason we use Pringles to deal with them.


When you give them something they like, they realize that you're their friend.

We do not give it to them as food...

but rather as a tactic to handle them.

And then, you will always have good results.

This is the only region in the world where you can still find mountain gorillas.

There are only about 800 left in the whole world.

Now if we lose them, we will have lost something very important for humanity.

It is thanks to the animals, especially these gorillas, that our forest continues to be protected.

Tourism brings in money to help us sustain the conservation of nature.

There are many projects being implemented around the park because of our gorillas.

[all singing in Swahili]

[Bauma speaking French] Virunga National Park is really important because it contributes to the development of our country.

People are really optimistic that the park will make things better.

We always feel proud to stay in this forest and do this work.

[helicopter blades whirring]

[newscaster] Tens of thousands of families are on the move in Eastern Congo.

They're fleeing the latest manifestation of an African conflict that seems to have no end.

[boy speaking Swahili]

[newscaster translating] "We heard gunfire, so my mother told me to run," he says.

"I've been walking since morning."

The region has been in turmoil ever since the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Many of the killers fled into Congo.

The result? A succession of murky conflicts in a region famous for its mineral wealth and for its endangered mountain gorillas.

[people talking indistinctly]

[Melanie Gouby speaking French] There are 60,000 people here?

[man] I think there are more and more because people keep arriving.

[Gouby] Why do people keep coming?

[man] It's because of the M23 rebels.

[Gouby in English] I wanted to be a war correspondent since I was 15 years old.

It's always been a dream.

In French, we have this expression, "Metro, boulot, dodo."

So, like, "Subway, work, sleep."

And that's the routine of everyone back home, no excitement.

[speaking French] How do you feel about what has been happening to you over the last few months?

When I look at my children, I keep asking myself, "My God, how will they grow up under such conditions?"

I'm always worried about that.

[Gouby speaking English] I've been living in Goma for a year and a half now.

I came here to train woman journalists in radio and print.

A few days after I quit my job, the M23 conflict started.

So, it became really interesting to cover and I really wanted to stay here to cover it from start to finish.

[music playing over radio]

[man speaking French over radio] SOCO, in collaboration with ICCN, proceed to explore for oil under Lake Edward.

[women singing in Swahili over radio] ♪ Welcome to SOCO ♪

♪ We the people love you so much Because you bring us development ♪

[Gouby speaking English] At the same time as the M23 conflict is starting, a British company is also exploring for oil.

The Congolese government has granted a concession to SOCO International to explore for oil in Eastern Congo.

Around 50% of this concession covers the Virunga National Park.

This is the area that SOCO have focused on.

[speaking French] In the coming years, this country will be able to become an oil producer.

Three years of team work with the support of local and central authorities, all the work of the local teams, it's a fascinating adventure and I don't have any regrets.

[Gouby speaking English] It's a very sensitive region because there are so many armed groups.

So, since SOCO has started working in the area, I've been interested in finding out whether there could be any impact on the security situation.

All the armed groups know about SOCO's activities in the park, and they will want their slice of the cake.

[speaking French] Now we just need to wait for the oil to come.

[speaking English] Congo has suffered from foreign actors coming and exploiting its natural resources for centuries and... in the past it has brought a lot of violence here.

[de Merode] SOCO are an oil company.

A listed company on the London Stock Exchange.

And they're a British registered company.

They have a reputation for going for controversial ventures in difficult environments.

I believe that makes them quite a profitable company.

The only problem is that half...

Just over half of their concession is the National Park.

Virunga National Park is a World Heritage site.

And under both Congolese and international law, any oil-related activities are illegal.

When they announced their intentions to explore for oil on Lake Edward, we informed them that it was not legal.

A convoy of vehicles arrived and forced their way into the park.

[ranger speaking French] When they come back, what do we have to do?

What are your orders?

[de Merode] It's a good question.

If we close the gates, if we stop them entering the park, we risk huge trouble.

So we have to be cleverer than that.

It's not with weapons that we are going to succeed, but in documenting everything.

And if we bring this fight in front of the police in Congo, but especially in England, because SOCO is a British company.

This way we'll be able to defend ourselves using their acts.

This oil issue might destroy everything.

If we fail, we'll not only lose Virunga, but also the other parks in Congo.

All the other parks are going to sink.

Everyone will say, "You're not allowing us to exploit oil or ore in this park... but you did so in Virunga."

If we fail here, the whole conservation sector in Congo is going to fall.

It would be a disaster.

[Katembo] SOCO? Make Congo better?

No! And I repeat, no.

What will make Congo better?

It's work.

Work within the law.

All I know is that oil exploitation is not compatible with conservation.

I am not saying that because I am a ranger, it's the law that says this.

If you look at everyone in the chain of authorities in charge of the park, Emmanuel de Merode is the only one who doesn't feed on it.

We wonder what's wrong with him.

Everyone's noticed that oil is something big.

It's worth billions of dollars.

It looks like he wants his government, the Belgian one, to be part of this exploitation, or perhaps he wants them to take control at a later stage.

Either way, he's the one hindering the process, and he's the only one.

At the moment, the president's office, everyone in the capital, all have authorized it.

Even the minister for the environment has authorized it.

So far it's simply a matter of checking whether there is any oil.

It's like checking whether a person's liver or heart is okay, just checking if there's something wrong or not.

I think you have come to the right place.

When your people want to come into the park, I can arrange things in my sector.

I can tell my people that this is how things are going to be.

I'll have to speak to the minister, so that the minister can speak to you personally.

So the safety of the people of SOCO can be given to Rodrigue and his people.

But that should be your secret.

Just like that we can finalize it.

You get your cut, and maybe you give me a little of what they give you.

No problem.

[Katembo] People are being approached by SOCO supporters and offered money.

Even people in Virunga's organization are now working to undermine the park.

[speaking indistinctly]

It is unclear who can be trusted.

[kids screaming excitedly]

What is the importance of this lake for you as a community?

In Vitshumbi we are about 2,000 inhabitants, and all of us depend on this lake as we don't have any other work except fishing.

Therefore, fishing within the Virunga National Park is life for the community.

Our lives depend on it.

[speaking Swahili]

[Mukura speaking French] He says, "We don't care about oil, we earn our living from the lake and fishing."

You see, we are barely surviving here.

In the past, things were much better.

But with the recent fighting, people find their living standards are falling.

[Gouby] Did SOCO come to ask for your views about what is going on?

No, SOCO came in like a parachute.

We got up one morning to see beautiful vehicles driving by.

We went to see who it was and there were a few whites and Captain Feruzi.

He's a military intelligence agent.

We were shocked to see him doing a presentation to the people of the lake.

He told people that, "If you accept SOCO here... they will build universities, roads and schools... and you will have access to cultivate in the park... since at that moment the park will be declassified."

All this frightens us locals.

It says, "Look, soldiers are here and they could harm you if you don't comply."

[gorillas gibbering]


[speaking English] How are you?

Ndeze is expressing that... she's not... happy because... the breakfast is not ready yet.

Ndeze, what is going wrong? What's wrong?

You are going to have your breakfast.

Never mind.


[Bauma grunts]

The daily job to do is... to give them food... to stay with them... to play, because they don't have... their parents.


Ndeze is smiling.

Ah, Kaboko!

They must not feel that they are abandoned.

They must feel they are in the family.

You know, the war in Congo started a long time ago...

and unfortunately... we lost many people.

My father died in the war.

Yeah... he died when I was very young.

My father, he's the one who taught me... how to respect animals.

So... today, I am doing what my father created in my heart when I was a little boy.

[Katembo speaking French] Oil is an exhaustible resource whereas fauna and flora are inexhaustible resources.

Even if they are allowed to exploit the oil, it will one day come to an end.

But the park will remain through the years.

From generation to generation, people will see this park.

[speaking indistinctly]

-[Katembo speaking local] Big boss! -[laughing]

[Captain Feruzi] Josue!

Look how big he's grown. He opened the door for you!

Now they need you!

They know you are important in that sector where you can help us.

They also know that you are "the right hand" of the park director.

Do you understand? This means, "We're buying you."

First accept and let us collaborate and then they will be in the position to give you whatever you are asking for...

While we are working together, and you hear things, you'll feed us information secretly.

[Katembo] Directly to you. Whenever I can.

We are trying to gauge Emmanuel de Merode's position.

So what are we talking about?

3,000 dollars.

3,000? Okay.

[Captain Feruzi] You'll get your share and no one will know a thing!

[both laughing]

[Katembo in French] Captain Feruzi claims to work for SOCO security contractors.

He is offering bribes to work against the park.

This corruption threatens everything we're working for.

[Gouby speaking English] SOCO has to work with a lot of different people to make this work.

They... are in touch with and working with a lot of... politicians, a few people in the government.

SOCO has an office on the lake in Goma, but it's very difficult for me to go and talk to them because they obviously wouldn't really talk to anyone, and certainly not to a journalist like that.

And then I met Julien.

Julien Lechenault is one of SOCO's employees.

He's the main manager here in Eastern Congo.

[speaking indistinctly]

[Gouby] He is about 30 and he's French.

He started working for SOCO, I think, two years ago.

He's in charge of liaising between the operation on the ground and the top management in London.

He told me that SOCO does everything transparently and by the book and he is the one getting the oil operation going in the park.

I decided to start investigating SOCO through him, and so I started meeting him and filming him undercover.

-[Lechenault] Right? Just sit in there. -[Gouby laughs]

Okay, I'm going to the bathroom, I'll meet you downstairs.

[glasses clinking]

[people speaking indistinctly]

[Gouby] So we got a drink and then we sat down for dinner... and then the conversation got onto oil exploration through SOCO's work.

[Lechenault speaking French] It is the goal to check if we have oil and then we compare.

Conservation, how much is it worth? Oil, how much is it worth?

Do we start production?

But these people have their own vision of the park's future.

They've been looking after it for almost a century.

Moreover, it is full of rebels, full of poachers, full of mess.

It is completely absurd.

The best solution, effective for everyone, is to recolonize these countries.

There is no other solution.

For things to go well, we have to manage them because they are not able to manage themselves.

They are like children, actually. They aren't mature enough, I'd say.

[Gouby] You are tough with the Congolese people.

No, no, I know them too well.

[speaking English] One of the main problems that SOCO has had so far, it's the park itself.

It's Emmanuel de Merode.

[Lechenault speaking French] There is this guy, who blocks, because he's Belgian, from the royal family, etc.

And he's responsible for the park, so he's got all the power in this park.

His management gave us permission but he stands in our way.

There is a lot of tension between SOCO and Emmanuel.

I think he plays his political role a little bit, as a member of the royal family.

[Gouby laughs]

I would quite like to be his friend, but he doesn't want to be my friend.

[Gouby] Did you try?

No. I shook his hand once.

I'd been in Goma three days.

I didn't know anything.

[Gouby in English] I think, over the next few months, I'm going to carry on meeting with him as much as possible to follow how their activities is going and try to get more information from him.

I'm also keen to find out if the M23 rebels have any interest in the oil.

[thunder rumbling]

[Katembo speaking French] Okay, thanks.

Thanks, see you soon.

[speaking Swahili] I'll keep the car in drive position in case we have to get out of here fast.

We'll go together with Josue.

[speaking Swahili]

Josue, how are you doing?


[man 1 speaking French] This is Pieter Wright.

He is my boss.

He is a security advisor with SOCO.

[Wright speaking English] The reason I wanted to see you was to be able to put a name to your face because... very soon, we will start working in that area.

We will contact you regularly.

[man 2 speaking Swahili] We will now give you a little something...


[Wright speaking English] Just to say thank you.

[de Merode speaking French] It is important that we work together.

So what I want to say with regard to the difficulties we are facing, is that if we are strong and we withstand the situation, it is because we work as a team.

Please always remember that you have done a great job.

You have shown your courage and some of your friends have died for the rebuilding of the park.

The other thing I wanted to tell you about is the confusion which has developed around the oil issue with SOCO.

And what I want to tell you is very simple.

We are here to enforce the law.

It is law which allows peace re-establishment and country reconstruction.

We are not here to work for business interests, be it with regard to oil.

It is about integrity and honesty.

We have to maintain the respect and discipline which characterize us.

[Gouby speaking English] I'm doing a boy's band.

M23 cover album.

[speaking French] Okay. I'll give the whole pack away, then. What is that?

[Gouby] What do you want to drink?

A coffee?

Maybe not Heineken again, it's a bit early.

[man] It's Sunday!

You have Heineken on Sunday?

[man] On Sunday, on Saturday...

The other days I can't drink much because I'm working.

[Gouby] And at the moment are you working a lot?

[man] Communication is so much work, it's tiring.

I am a great notable of Rutshuru.

[Gouby] You have a lot of land there, don't you? How many hectares?

[man] 2,000 hectares, that's it.

And the friends from SOCO have put marker stones on my land to mark out the Block 5, their concession.

Some people don't like SOCO doing its work here.

Minister Vunabandi asked me to calm them.

I did that job.

I've communicated to the population that it's better to work with SOCO than work with the park.

You told them that it was better?

Yes, I told the people better with SOCO than with the park.

If SOCO works with us, in particular with me...

I am in the M23, but outside the M23 I have my private businesses.

[Gouby] All right, so you would have a percentage?

[man] Yes, we are asking for a percentage.

They cannot exploit oil without us.

It's a percentage, whether it is 0.01 or 0.001.

[Gouby] Yes, it can be a lot of money.

[man] A lot.

[Gouby speaking English] Rebels like Colonel Kazarama are all scrambling to profit from the oil exploration in the region.

Although, so far, there is no evidence that SOCO has entered into financial deals with them.

By operating in this environment... I think that SOCO are playing with fire... and they are playing with forces that are extremely powerful and dangerous.

[indistinct conversations]

[flies buzzing]

[Katembo speaking French] They used a chainsaw to remove part of the head and the upper jaw.

They took that, as well as the tusks.

Examining the ballistics suggests this wasn't the work of poachers we are familiar with.

This was a military style operation.

[de Merode speaking English] Every single armed group that is operating in Eastern Congo is tied to the illegal exploitation of natural resources.

That's how they survive.

And they all have... mixed agendas.

You know, they have an official agenda that they... that they broadcast, but in reality... all their efforts are focused on survival and making money.

[speaking Swahili] We will march on the capital Kinshasa!

[crowd cheers]

Long live M23!

[crowd cheers]

[speaking French] Ladies, gentlemen, we regretfully announce the resumption of war by the Kinshasa government.

[Gouby speaking French] So the goal isn't to gain more territory?

No, let me be clear.

If the government agree to enter into dialog with us and suspend their attacks, we are here for peace.

If they continue to violate the truce, then we know what we will do.

[gunfire in distance]

[explosions in distance]

[Gouby speaking French] Hey! Did you get my text?

No, no, no, you didn't tell me where you were.

Okay. Opposite Rouge and it's called "Grill"?

Okay, cool. Let's do that. Perfect.

[Gouby speaking English] I thought that I would meet Julien by himself.

So when I arrived, I was quite surprised to see him with two other people, one of whom was a SOCO security subcontractor.

[Gouby speaking French] Please be careful, sir.

[Gouby speaking English] I hate that.

[John] If you pull the trigger now, it goes off.

[Gouby] I hate when they do that.

[Lechenault] No security on!

[man] Just gonna get close like that.

[Gouby] So we speak English tonight.

[man] No, Français!

[man] My Français is a bit shit.

[Gouby chuckles]

What do you define yourself as?

[John] Some people would say I'm a mercenary.

[Gouby] You're a mercenary?

[John] Some people would... some people wouldn't.

[Gouby] John... was this kind of crazy British... former-Special Forces guy who bragged a lot about how he had been in all these crazy situations, killed lots of people, and saying these horrible things about Congolese.

[John] The people here are nice, but I tell you one thing, they've got bloodlust.

They kill for the fucking sake of killing and they fucking hinge on it.

There are lots of rebels... you look at them and straight away you think...

The energy is up and you think...

-they enjoy it. -[Lechenault] Fucking mad, yeah?

They like it and there is nothing you can do about it.

You can't educate, you can't...

[Lechenault] Culture them?

[John] There is nothing you can change in their mentality because it's fucking primeval.

It is primeval, it is ancient, it is inbred psychology that you cannot fucking change.

[Gouby] Don't you talk to these guys?

[John] Who?

[Lechenault] Which ones? [John] To which ones?

[Lechenault] The rebels? [Gouby] Yeah?

[Lechenault] We talk to them every day. Well, not me, but subcontractors.

[Gouby] SOCO contractors are in daily talks with rebel groups... and potentially even paying them to be able to work in the area.

Although, Julien claims to have no part in any of this.

[Lechenault] We don't deal with the rebels.

You've got to give them money to be able to travel through the area.

[John] What do you think you're doing with DEI (SOCO security contractors)?

[Lechenault clears throat]

[John] How much do you think SOCO's paid fucking...

[Lechenault] Shut up!

[John] Come on! [Lechenault] Don't...

We have a journalist here!

[John] If you're gonna be honest, be honest.

And while you're paying them and keeping them happy, they'll work with you.

[Gouby] Julien was implying that they're paying their security company to deal with all these security issues, and so the security company... receives a certain amount of money and that was that.

They just let them do whatever they need to do.

[Lechenault] I never spoke to a fucking rebel myself.

That's why we subcontract that shit.

[John] Who's paying the fucking money? You or them?

[Lechenault] Subcontractors. [John] No, you can't get away with that.

[Lechenault] It doesn't matter where the money comes from.

[John] Of course it does, without the money the job doesn't happen.

Fucking civilians don't get killed.

You don't have war.

It's the money that fuels everything.

So to give them money and then turn around and say it's nothing to do with us...

It's just fucking hypocritical.

You know, it's just... It's playing God.

But if you're gonna do it, at least be fucking honest about it!

It's business, it's business, and business is business.

That was tricky.

This kind of thing that you hear in movies... and to hear that in real life from people you're having dinner with...

[Lechenault] Now we can see the value of that park, mining-wise.

It's just a fucking mine, this park.

[John] It could be colossal.

-With the intelligence, it's crazy... -[John] It is colossal.

...the money you could pull out.

[Lechenault] Now what they defend, I'm not sure it's all about animals.

I'm not sure at all.

[John] It ain't gorillas, put it that way.

[Lechenault] I don't think it could be so highly involved to do the shit they do.

[John] Unless they're shitting diamonds and fucking pissing iron ore, they don't give a fuck about the gorillas.

Fuck me, it's a monkey, who gives a fuck about a fucking monkey?

[gunshot in distance]

[explosion in distance]

[explosion in distance]

[Bauma speaking English] We were very worried about the fighting.

We are hearing so many... bombs.

Many, many, many bombs.

[explosions continue]

When gorillas hear the sound of bombs, they want to be close to the caregivers.

[explosions continue]

[reporter] Well, we heard some heavy firing, and then suddenly, all these tanks heading southwards, away from the front line.

Some of the soldiers that we managed to speak to said they'd just fallen into an ambush just up the road, and now they're beating a retreat.

[de Merode speaking French] Firstly, as you all know there were clashes yesterday and the fighting intensified in Bunagana.

But we need to prepare ourselves in case that fighting may spread and affect us here in Rumangabo.

[speaking French] It's Melanie.

They're approaching.

Yes, the M23.

And the army is fleeing towards Bukavu.

[sighs, clicks tongue]

[de Merode speaking French] The villagers are about to start leaving.

We are going to stay here.

I just wanted to know about the food for the gorillas.

How many days' worth do we have left?

Two days.

The M23 rebels are in Rubare.

If they cut off Mwaro, we'll have to cope with what we have.

[speaking English] Hi. It's Melanie. Can you hear me?

Hi... I can't hear you very well, but... so basically, the M23, they're about to take the town.

The Congolese army is fleeing.

The governor has been evacuated.

[explosion in distance]

[explosion in distance]

[explosion nearby]

[men talking heatedly in Swahili]

[speaking English] We think we have a problem.

The danger is near us.


[explosions in distance]

[Mitamba speaking French] Good morning again.

I wanted to tell you that the explosions you heard some time ago were M23 rebel actions.

You should all have your essential items packed and be ready for evacuation.


[Gouby speaking French] We are going to Kibati actually.

It's a bit further.

Sorry, is there a problem?


[helicopter blades whirring]

[child wailing]

[Mitamba speaking Swahili] I'll start by calling the names.

If you hear your name, move aside with your belongings and children so that I can see you.

If there is excessive luggage, I will leave it!

[de Merode speaking French] They are advancing.

They're nearly at Kalengera.

We've got to hurry.

If everybody is there, then we must start the evacuation.

[Mitamba] Yes, let's evacuate everyone who's ready.

[loud gunfire]

[Gouby yelps]

[Gouby speaking English] The fighting just broke out just next to us.

[stammering] I don't know if we're doing the right thing.

[speaking French] Hi, is everything okay?

No, he's really weakened.

[Mitamba] What's caused it?

Diarrhea. He suffered from diarrhea the whole night last night.

But yesterday, he played and he ate.

[Mitamba] What is his name?

[Bauma] Kaboko.

[Mitamba] Ah, he's the one called Kaboko.

He is suffering.

You see, he's suffering.

[de Merode urging]

[speaking French] If they ask us to hand over our arms...


...we'll have to react fast and hide them.

If they ask us to do that, and I'm telling you I know them well, it would be worse than you think.

If they are telling us to hand them over...

[de Merode] You all know the situation.

The M23 rebels are about to arrive here.

Our role now is to protect the station.

It is very likely that this zone falls under the control of M23.

And I am counting on you to stay with me.

Our role is simply to stay here to watch over the station which is there for the park.

If they come here, we cannot fight against them.

I will be the last to leave Rumangabo.

[heavy gunfire in distance]

[Gouby] Stop, stop! Stop. [driver] Yes, yes, yes.

[Gouby] Quickly, let's go! [driver] Get in.

[driver] Here, here, here. [Gouby] Quick, quick, quick!

[speaking French]

[driver speaking English] Press. Press. Press, oui.

[speaking French] Going to Ihusi. Yes.

[de Merode speaking French] The Congolese army are deploying around the station.

[Mburanumwe] Rutshuru is under the control of M23.

[de Merode] Really?

[gunfire in distance]

[de Merode] There is going to be trouble here.

[Mburanumwe] Yes, I think so.

[Bauma speaking English] Many people left Rumangabo.

But, for me, I felt obliged to stay with gorillas here.

You must justify why you are here on this Earth.

Gorillas justify why I am here.

[speaking French] They are my life.

So if it is about dying, I will die for the gorillas.

[speaking Swahili] We've been informed that the enemy is on his way.

You know why we are here.

[Mburanumwe speaking French] If they were to go further over, we'd be between the hammer and the anvil.

Even here... we are between the hammer and the anvil.




[speaking French] They're here.

Yes, M23 are in Rumangabo.

[gunfire continues]

[man groaning]

Oh, mama! Ma, mama!


[heavy gunfire]

[gunfire continues]

[reporter speaking English] Until the early hours of Sunday morning, all of this territory here was controlled by the Congolese army and their allies, the United Nations Peacekeepers.

But that has now been reversed, and these rebels here are now within easy striking distance of the provincial capital, Goma.

[man speaking French] The M23 rebels are here.

They've entered.

So there is nothing. No more Congolese soldiers. They left.

The country is sold.

[rebels cheering]

[rebels cheering]

[Bauma speaking English] It was very difficult for the vet to come here because of the war.

All the night, yeah, I was with him.

3:00 a.m., he became very weak.

At 5:00 a.m., we lost our lovely gorilla, Kaboko.

He left this world.

[de Merode] So, our area has now been overrun by the M23 militias.

It has created, for us, a huge level of uncertainty.

It was impossible for us to leave, because if we were to leave, we would lose everything.

We'd lose the park and the wildlife would be at risk, and we'd lose everything that we've built over the last few years to keep this park going.

There was very heavy shelling and a lot of gunfire.

Many people got hurt in the villages.

Some of them came here looking for help and we did our best to help them, but they were very badly injured, and some of them died.

It was probably the most violent period we've known.

[Gouby] There was about 60,000 displaced people living here, and they're all gone.

[doctor 1 speaking French] In the last few days, we have had many wounded people.

The majority are children.

All these people were shot.

This one almost died but we gave him a blood transfusion.

[Gouby wincing] Baby.

Do you know how old is he?

[doctor 2] Five... he's five.

[John speaking English] It's the money that fuels everything.

Now we can see the value of that park.

[speaking French] Yes, we are asking for a percentage.

They cannot exploit oil without us.

[John speaking English] It's business, it's business, and business is business.

[Lechenault speaking French] So now there are death threats coming.

Death threats, from both sides.

Some people are threatening to kill de Merode.

It doesn't come from us, we don't know from whom.

They know that the blockage comes from him.

They are going to kill him.

[Gouby speaking English] This company is operating with the same lack of oversight that this country has experienced so many times, and it's feeding into the conflict.

What I'm really scared about when this is published, is that people read it and... then they just go on with their life and nothing is done about this.

For me, it's not just another questionable company in Africa...

It's a company that has been attacking one of the only hopes this region has.

It's intense... and it can be quite sad... actually.

[de Merode] So the fighting's been very violent in this area, and it's meant that we haven't been able to find the gorillas.

We're extremely worried about their safety.

Now, finally, we've been able to get back.

[flies buzzing]

[thumps chest]

[de Merode speaking French] We're going to celebrate.

There's an even smaller one.

It's only 3 months old.

[de Merode speaking English] New birth.

So that's very, very good news.



[speaking French] You know that Kaboko was the only male that we had here at the Senkwekwe Center.

In my heart, I still miss him.

I really miss him.

But I have started understanding that these things happen.

And even the other gorillas, especially Maisha...

Maisha also lost Kaboko.


We are trying to realize life goes on.

[Katembo] I have accepted to give the best of myself, so that wildlife can be safeguarded beyond all pressure.

Beyond all spirit of greediness about money.

Beyond all things.

All that could happen to me...

I will accept it.

I am not special.


We cannot stand weak and say, "SOCO, go ahead."


In the end, we will be judged... if we just stand by as the park vanishes.

But our wish is that this park lives forever.

[speaking Swahili]

[Bauma cooing]