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Gorillas of the Virunga Mountains

July 1, 2016

Gorillas of the Virunga Mountains

- as seen by -

Judith Hamilton 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?!

EDITOR’S NOTE: See more of Judy’s wonderful wildlife photography on her website and in her new book, Animal Expressions.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III

, Rwanda Map It


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Steve Dylan
July 8, 2016 at 11:51 am

So pleased to see your enthusiam for wildlife, particularly endangered species.

byrdie Keeler
July 14, 2016 at 9:49 pm

i was there 2 years ago, beautiful. the climb was hard. we went in the wrong direction for 2 hours or so then changed. it was all worth it but i think they judged me as more fit than i was

Vivian schwartz
July 15, 2016 at 5:54 pm

I just came back from gorilla and chimpanzee trekking in Reanda and Uganda . It was one of the most amazing things that I have ever done! I got push and punched by a gorilla also ! Amazing experience !!

Courtney Rose
July 26, 2016 at 1:44 am

I was in Virunga in the DRC in June. We tracked mountain gorillas two days in a row – first day, an easy 45 mins. to find the family; the second day, two and a half hour hike all uphill to find the family. Well worth it, getting to watch these amazing beautiful creatures taking their lunch in a bamboo forest.

Heath Welms
August 8, 2016 at 8:46 pm

According to Lukambo, this jockeying over the Block 5 contract has already begun in earnest, even if it could be years before oil in Virunga is discovered—if it’s ever discovered at all.