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Tuesday
Oct312017

Mountain Gorillas

• Gorillas are the world’s largest primates. 

• Gorilla's DNA is 98% identical to that of humans. 

• Gorillas are intelligent animals. they have a variety of communication methods, including some 25 different sounds. they also posses the ability to use tools. 

• Gorillas build nests with branches and leaves. they sleep on them and build them both on the ground and on trees 

 

Right in the center of the African continent is a very special range of volcanoes. The borders of modern day Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo meet in these mountainous rain forests. Early explorers searched for these mountains as proof that they were the fabled source of the Nile, edged on by legends and tales as old as Aristotle himself. 

 

Protected by the vast Sahara Desert in the North, Lake Victoria in the East, Lake Tanganyika in the South and the Congo Rain forest in the West, the Virunga Mountains were only discovered by the Western World at the turn of the century and their most famous inhabitant, the Mountain Gorilla, in 1902! 

 

Carl Akeley, with the American Museum of Natural History, convinced Albert of Belgium to create the Albert National Park in 1925. No one knows how many gorillas lived in these mountains in those early days but their numbers were down to about 250 animals in 1981! The loss of these animals is attributed to forest land being lost to farming, poaching, disease (gorillas share 98% of their DNA with us humans) and from war... 

 

Through a lot of hard work and the income that tourism has brought to these poor African countries (Rwanda earns about 400 million US dollars a year from Gorilla tourism) today’s Mountain Gorilla population is over 900 animals. All this money coming find people cultivating crops like Irish Potatoes until approaching a stone wall that separates the National Park from the farm lands, built to keep the buffalo out of the fields! 

 

Once you climb the wall you disappear into the forest. Much of the lower areas of the forest are made up of bamboo (a favorite food of the Gorillas at certain times of the year). This quickly gives way to lush jungle with massive trees. Despite the sounds of this trek, walking is quite easy, as most of the time you are walking on well defined elephant trails. 

 

After about an hour or so you will start seeing signs of fresh gorilla activity and your guides will call a halt. Here you leave your walking sticks (so as not to scare the gorillas) and back packs gorillas will always be the highlight.

 

A typical family is comprised of about 20 animals. The huge 430 pound Silverback is their leader. He carries himself with the quiet confidence of a tried and tested leader, tolerating our presence as if we are distant cousins visiting the family. His wives are faithful partners following his lead through the forest with young gorillas of every age. The young seem to show the most interest in us as their curiosity interrupts their seemingly otherwise never ending play.

I once had my hand in my pocket, and the act so intrigued a young teenager that he couldn’t help but pull at my arm to find where my hand had disappeared! A friend was lying on a path so engrossed in photographing the antics of a very young gorilla that he came in between the youngster and his mother. He felt a tug on his legs and when he turned around, fearing the worst, he found the mother watching him, seeming to gently encourage him to move away. That encounter ended as he rolled out of the way and she scooped up her baby and moved off down the path.

I could go on and on with stories about these animals but could never do them justice. All I can say as a well-worn traveler is, if you have a week to spare and can get over there, it will be one of the greatest 

experiences of your life! 

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