Music with a Message

WWF works with World Music maestro on song for Virunga conservation

Why we needed a song
It is no exaggeration to say that the Virunga Landscape is known as much for its famed mountain gorillas as it is for a long and bloody conflict that has taken a toll on millions of people. The challenge is inspiring people to save an irreplaceable natural treasure when they face hunger, desperation and even death.

Listen now:

See the lyrics while you listen.

So who better to encourage people to protect and nurture Virunga than one of their own? WWF teamed up with the much-loved Congolese musician Samba Mapangala and his Orchestra Virunga to work on a new conservation resource – one that drives home a positive message in an upbeat tune and uplifting tone. The song “Les Gorilles des Montagnes” focuses on why mountain gorillas and their habitat in the Virunga landscape are important, emphasizing that they are the foundation of ecotourism, which will improve local livelihoods. It pays special tribute to the rangers and other conservationists of Virunga who dedicate their lives to protecting gorillas.

The song was recorded in Swahili, the most commonly spoken language of the Virunga landscape, and debuted at the ICCF Forum at Washington DC in September 2009. It is being distributed as a free resource in the Congo Basin where we hope the message will take firm root as it spills out of local radio stations, in homes, at schools and on the streets.

The Virunga region is a hotspot for major industries around extraction like coltan mining, which attracts thousands of people in search of mining jobs. Its fertile volcanic soils and high rainfall make it one of the most densely populated areas on earth, where people rely heavily on the forest for wood and charcoal. In recent times, the voracious illegal charcoal trade worth millions of dollars, has taken root, endangering the future of vulnerable wildlife like charismatic mountain gorillas. Wildlife are also prey to people too as they are hunted for bushmeat, which is consumed as a source of protein in refugee camps, and smuggled into urban centers throughout Africa and even further afield into the United States.

WWF believes that protecting gorillas is one of the smartest investments people can make for their future. Mountain gorillas hold some of the highest potential of any wildlife species to generate income and promote local livelihoods through ecotourism. The estimated direct income from mountain gorilla tourism is $3 million annually, and may surpass $20 million annually when combined with supporting industries such as hotels and restaurants. Gorilla tourism returned to Virunga National Park in May 2009, home to 200 mountain gorillas, 81 of which reside in groups habituated to tourists.

WWF’s conservation efforts in the region are focused not only on protecting gorillas from poaching, but also protecting their fragile forest habitat. We promotes the use of alternative cooking fuels, improved cooking stoves, domestic livestock instead of bushmeat for protein, and sourcing wood from sustainably-grown sources. Since 1987, WWF has helped plant over a 10 million trees in community forests around Virunga National Park.