Chronology Kolinga, 1986-2027

1986: Birth in Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo.

1989: 3 years old. Day after day, at his mother’s side, Kolinga discovers life in the wild. He learns to recognise the leaves, roots, flowers, and bark that are essential for his food intake.

The ravages of civil war

1994: 8 years old. Kolinga loses his parents. In Rwanda, civil war pits Tutsi against Hutu. To escape the genocide, two million Rwandans take refuge in bordering countries and especially in the Virunga Mountains in Congo. It is the greatest human migration in history. To survive, refugees have no option but to go poaching. The impact of the exodus is disastrous for the gorillas; Kolinga’s parents are killed before his very eyes, and he barely escapes death. After wandering for weeks, Kolinga – now an orphan – joins a new group under the protection of an impressive dominant male, Mokonzi.

1996: UNESCO adds Virunga National Park to the “World Heritage in Danger” list.

2001: Epidemics caused by the Ebola virus affect Gabon, Uganda, and Congo. For the first time since it appeared in 1976, Ebola also contaminates the plains gorillas.

Kolinga the clan chief

2003: 17 years old. Kolinga has grown: he stands 1.8 metres tall and weighs 220 kilos; the black fur on his back has turned to grey / white. Kolinga has become a powerful “silverback”, and he intends to reign over the clan’s harem, so he provokes the patriarch, Mokonzi. At the end of a merciless fight, he drives Mokonzi away and becomes the new head of a group of nine gorillas.

2005: The birth of Mokili, the first son of Kolinga and Elikia, one of his three companions. The event is highly significant for the small community, because the females, with their low levels of fertility, only bear four or five babies during their lives.

2006: With the rainy season in full flood, animal traffickers attack Kolinga’s clan. Elikia is killed and her son Mokili is kidnapped. Bereft of its progeny, the group sees its future compromised.
Poaching remains one of the main dangers facing gorillas. They are mainly hunted to feed the illegal traffic in bush meat. Their hands are used to make ashtrays, and their skulls – which are highly-prized trophies – are sold at high prices for the practice of black magic and other fetish-based beliefs.

The threat of black gold

2010: In June, the Congolese government awards concessions to oil firms. About 85% of Virunga National Park is affected.

2011: Prospecting starts (opening up trails, aerial reconnaissance, and seismic surveys). Oil prospectors are protected by local militia corrupted by petrodollars.

2013: Violent clashes break out in the Rutshuru region between the Congolese armed forces and the M23 rebel movement. The UN sets up an intervention brigade, but one and a half million people flee the conflict. Three gorillas from Kolinga’s clan are shot dead by combatants.

The retreat of the forest

2016: Kolinga and his group gradually lose their domain. Population pressure worsens. Agriculture, forest clearance, and charcoal production daily force back the forest that shelters them. The gorillas grow increasingly disturbed, and they find it difficult to feed themselves.

2018: Kolinga’s family is split asunder. The clan breaks up; the females and the young males join a new group. Kolinga finds himself alone.

2021: A scientific report sets out alarmist conclusions. It foresees the extinction of the mountain gorillas in the very short term unless Draconian measures are taken swiftly.

2023: The official primate-conservation programmes are pushed into the background because of an unprecedented worldwide economic crisis and regional armed conflicts. The scientific monitoring and protection of gorillas are no longer carried out.

2024: Governments give in to pressure from the oil lobbies. In spite of large demonstrations in Europe and in the USA, oil groups set themselves up in Virunga National Park; they are closely followed by mining and forestry companies.
New pioneer fronts are opened up in Africa’s oldest national park. It is the region’s greatest environmental catastrophe. Each month, new clandestine villages are built to house workers, prospectors, and traffickers of all types. The demand for bush meat explodes to feed all those mouths.

The ebola virus and the final combat

2025: 39 years old. Kolinga lives alone, and he is exhausted. The terrible Ebola virus reappears in the Virunga volcanic region of Rwanda and Congo. Bwindi National Park in Uganda is also severely affected. The last three sanctuaries where the mountain gorillas survive are contaminated. The health authorities confirm that several hundred humans and gorillas are dead. Kolinga is unable to form a new group or join one.

2026: 80% of mountain gorillas are decimated by the epidemic of hæmorrhagic fever triggered by the Ebola virus. Their population numbers collapse irreversibly. Chaos spreads throughout the region.

2027: 41 years old. Kolinga is the last survivor of his species. Weakened by pneumonia, he fights one last time against the poachers who track him pitilessly and kill him. His body is found savagely mutilated, his hands and feet cut off using a machete.
The last mountain gorilla is dead. The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) classifies Gorilla beringei beringei under “EX / extinct”. The species is officially extinct.

Scenario Gilles Martin