Sir David Attenborough made British TV history filming the Gorillas, will UK Soco repeat it destroying their habitat?

In this great video, Sir David Attenborough remembers filming perhaps one of the most ground breaking and well loved nature documentaries in the world, ‘Life on Earth’. The highlight of the series was perhaps one of the most memorable moments in British Television: David’s encounter with the mountain Gorillas in Rwanda.

Source: From Michael Palin’s interview with Attenborough and his colleagues filmed for BBC show ‘Life on Air’.

“The best remembered sequence occurs in the twelfth episode, when Attenborough encounters a group of mountain gorillas in Dian Fossey‘s sanctuary in Rwanda. The primates had become used to humans through years of being studied by researchers. Attenborough originally intended merely to get close enough to narrate a piece about the apes’ use of the opposable thumb, but as he advanced on all fours toward the area where they were feeding, he suddenly found himself face to face with an adult female. Discarding his scripted speech, he turned to camera and delivered a whispered ad lib:

“There is more meaning and mutual understanding in exchanging a glance with a gorilla than with any other animal I know. Their sight, their hearing, their sense of smell are so similar to ours that they see the world in much the same way as we do. We live in the same sort of social groups with largely permanent family relationships. They walk around on the ground as we do, though they are immensely more powerful than we are. So if there were ever a possibility of escaping the human condition and living imaginatively in another creature’s world, it must be with the gorilla. The male is an enormously powerful creature but he only uses his strength when he is protecting his family and it is very rare that there is violence within the group. So it seems really very unfair that man should have chosen the gorilla to symbolise everything that is aggressive and violent, when that is the one thing that the gorilla is not — and that we are.”

When Attenborough returned to the site the next day, the female and two young gorillas began to groom and play with him. In his memoirs, Attenborough describes this as “one of the most exciting encounters of my life”. He subsequently discovered, to his chagrin, that only a few seconds had been recorded: the cameraman was running low on film and wanted to save it for the planned description of the opposable thumb.[1]

In 1999 viewers of Channel 4 voting for the 100 Greatest TV Moments placed the gorilla sequence at number 12 — ranking it ahead of Queen Elizabeth II‘s coronation and the wedding of Charles and Diana.” Source: Wikipedia

SOCO don’t repeat British television history destroying the Virunga National Park, one of the last sanctuaries of the mountain Gorillas. Oil exploration in Virunga National Park could have devastating impacts on their habitat, triggering an influx of people and serious environmental destruction… So it seems really unfair that SOCO would have chosen to drill in this World Heritage Site, when that is the one thing that we have globally agreed to protect, conserve, present and transmit to future generations – Save Virunga

2 thoughts on “Sir David Attenborough made British TV history filming the Gorillas, will UK Soco repeat it destroying their habitat?

  1. Hi, The gorillas Attenborough interacted with are in Rwanda highlands, not DRC lowlands , where Soco are exploring for oil. Look at the (human) devastation, cultivation etc to see what damage has already been done !

    1. The Virunga Mountains, where Sir Attenborough filmed the Gorillas border the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. Virunga unites three countries and many protected areas because of its high biodiversity. The mountain range is located between Lake Edward (SOCO – BLOCK V) and Lake Kivu. The Virunga Mountains are home of the critically endangered Mountain gorilla.

      Oil exploration in Lake Edward and Virunga National Park is illegal. It will also involve the development of roads and wells, impact water resources (water quality, water flows, ..), include ground clearing, seismic testing… influx of people in a fragile ecosystem and World Heritage site.

      Many studies have documented that one of the main threats to Gorilla population is the degradation and loss of their habitat. Attracting more people to this region and lakes could be a higher risk of diseases and habitat loss for the mountain gorillas in this area.

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