In Fossey’s Footsteps

July 11, 2011

The thought of tracking mountain gorillas in an African rainforest conjures up a romantic image of ‘Gorillas in the Mist’, the shiver running down your spine as you hear the first rumble of a Silverback and the sight of fluffy infants tumbling in the undergrowth, close enough to touch. I was lucky to get close to this reality earlier this month, with an audience with these gentle giants in Rwanda.

There are seven habituated gorilla families, nestled amongst the towering volcanoes of the Virunga range in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Our group was trekking towards the ‘Susa’ Group – the group originally studied by Dian Fossey.

As we hiked up forested slopes, through bush and bamboo, we were surprised by the amount of light entering the canopy. Few things could have prepared us for our first sighting of the gorillas though… One of the group’s females had given birth to twins five days before our visit and was gently nursing them. The majority of the group was enjoying an afternoon nap, however, one boisterous youngster was determined to try and wake them all up by beating his tiny little chest – to no avail! As the hour passed, a few individuals woke up and began munching on bamboo; some even sauntered right through our group and the temptation to touch them was quite overwhelming. Gazing into their soulful eyes is an experience I will never forget.

Known as the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’, I can see why Rwanda never fails to enchant its visitors. The country is visually stunning, and my experience with the gorillas mixed both madness with complete magic. The conservation of this species is paramount to their survival and I sincerely hope that a few privileged people each year will continue to be able to visit them.

Annekatrin Els.

Posted by Anne-Marie Weeden

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