July 1, 2016
Gorillas of the Virunga Mountains
- as seen by -Judith Hamilton
In March, I traveled to Rwanda.
I was last there tracking mountain gorillas in 2005 with Amy Vedder. Vedder and Bill Weber began working with the gorillas in the 1980s. At that time, there were a handful of habituated gorilla groups. Now, there are more than 20 which are visited by people for research or tourism. Virunga Mountains gorilla numbers have doubled over the same period, from an estimated 250 to 480 individuals.
We tracked the animals three different days. It was some of the hardest hiking I have ever done: muddy mountainous slopes, nettles, no trails, and ankle-twisting vines underfoot. When we got to a troop, which stopped to eat and rest, it was magical. I was intently watching the silverback (the troop’s male leader) in awe of his majesty, when a small female walked up to me, and punched me in the arm as if to say, “Get out of my way!”
How many people can say they have been punched by a gorilla?!
Canon EOS 5D Mark III