Brian just sent in another section from his journal, this time gorilla watching in Rwanda. (Photos by Dee Keating)
“Our first troop of gorillas that we visited was the Kwitonda Troop. Consisting of 23 gorillas, of which we saw 18, the troop is known for being found in the lower elevations, usually. We parked at about 2,500m in the potato and pyrethrum fields after driving on a very bumpy lava cobblestone track. From there it was a short walk to the edge of the park, marked by the lava rock wall that was completed several years ago along the length of the Rwanda side of the park.
The 75 kilometre long wall was built to try to keep the elephant and the buffalo inside the park and out of the farmers’ fields. Once inside, we ascended some 200m on narrow, often muddy forest trails. Buffalo and elephant tracks and droppings were common, and we found one of the huge earthworms that the Virunga Mountains are known for.
We found the troop quietly feeding in the bamboo forest, and we immediately came upon their newest little addition to the troop: the 4 month old “Gahuza” (named at the Kwita Izina ceremony on Sept. 5th) meaning ‘bringing people together’). He was sitting on his mother’s lap, face buried onto her chest and nursing! We all sat as a small group of human primates, watching in amazement as the youngster finally finished and then began exploring his immediate surroundings. Moving about on uncoordinated, shaky little limbs, the tiny black fuzzball grabbed small sticks, and then retreated back to mom. Then he would start all over again.
A playful 3-year old (a naughty female toddler named Ubugena) finally couldn’t resist the crawling little “Gund” toy and came over, picked up the baby, and started to play with it as if it was a doll! She rolled over and over, holding Gahuza tightly to her fuzzy body, until mom finally came over to reclaim her baby, disappearing into the bush. It was all so incredibly magical.
We spent the rest of the “follow” mostly with the two silverbacks, Karevuro and Kigoma, and other members of the group. We sat in amazement when the huge silverback grabbed a fully grown bamboo stalk, pulled it down and busted it in half with a resounding “crack”, showering us with brown, dry bamboo leaves. He then proceeded to strip the leafy branches, pulling them through his teeth with much efficiency.
Ubugena was known for her sneaky walk-pasts to slap the human observers on the leg or arm, just to make contact and watch the reaction! She sidled up to Dee and touched her arm, then withdrew, and snuck back to have a look again, and suddenly reached up to touch her gold earring hoop….the tracker whispered to Dee to stand up, or the ring would have been pulled off in a split second! I caught the entire episode on video! She also slid her hand over my thigh as I sat on the forest floor. Another little 18 month old gently touched the back of Paula’s hand with her tiny little black fingers, inspecting Paula’s light-coloured, hairless skin!