Visiting Unhabituated Mountain Gorillas In The Wilderness
Visiting Unhabituated Mountain Gorillas In The Wilderness; Whether heading for gorilla trekking, Gorilla habituation, or gorilla census in the wild, you may get to find the unhabituated or semi habituated gorilla families in the wilderness.
In Uganda, mountain gorillas live freely in the wilderness of Bwindi Impenetrable National park and Mgahinga National Park. In Rwanda, mountain gorillas are residents of Volcanoes National Park. Virunga National park in D.R.Congo is home for the mountain gorillas to. In the entire world, the mountain gorillas are only found in the Virunga area that is made up of only the above countries.
Most Popular Gorilla Safaris
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- 5 Day Chimp and Gorilla Habituation
- 3 Day Fly in Gorilla Habituation
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In the past, the wild mountain gorillas and humans had no relations and humans used to encroach heavily on the life of the mountain gorillas. Sometimes the mountain gorillas would also raid the gardens of humans and eat there crops. Many mountain gorillas were killed, others taken for circus, others as pets and much more.
All these atrocities lead to the tremendous reduction in the number of world mountain gorillas to about 250 by 1980s as recorded by Dian Fossey.
One of the solutions to bridge that gap between humans and the mountain gorillas was to allow humans to pay a visit to the mountain gorillas, which is today called gorilla habituation. The process of getting mountain gorillas accustomed to seeing humans without altering the natural life of the mountain gorillas.
The more visitors are getting closer to the mountain gorillas in the wild, the more both parties understand the purpose of co-existing.
In the 1980s, the mountain gorillas were at the brink of extinction and International Union for Conservation Of Nature (IUCN) has pronounced them one of the most endangered species of the world.
With the intense conservation effort that international and domestic bodies are putting towards mountain gorillas, the numbers have started rising as recorded during every census.
How To Deal With Unhabituated Mountain Gorillas
Researchers, rangers and veterinary doctors work together to help in the process of habituating the mountain gorillas. This process may take some great amount of time about 3 years to 5 years or more depending on the level wildness that the mountain gorillas are at.
Each day, data is collected and recoded about the mountain gorillas. Some samples like hairs from the previous night nests, dung are collected and taken to the laboratory for analysis.
The individual behavior of each family member, numbers of infants born, number of females and males in the family are recoded and so much more. As time goes on names are given to some gorilla family members to identify them easily.
During this gorilla habituation procedure, the participants have to show there extreme royalty towards the dominant silverback in order to capture his attention.
He is the head of the entire gorilla family and once he approves of human presence the rest follow, then a gorilla family can be pronounced ready for gorilla trekking.
When the gorilla trekking family is semi habituated, a group of about 4 tourists may be allowed to visit and accompany the group of habituators for about 4 hours compared to the fully habituated family which is visited for only one hour during gorilla trekking.
The semi habituated gorilla trekking family is still under observation and still bares the wild behavior so you need to follow instruction as given by the ranger guides and researchers in the group. Otherwise, you may alter the so far work done by this group in case you provoke or make any suspicious behavior towards the mountain gorillas that may cause doubt.
You have to pack the right gorilla habituation gears that will last you the entire time in the wilderness. A lot of patience and humility is needed for you to enjoy visiting these semi wild mountain gorillas. Remember they are the masters of the jungle and sometimes gorilla families with many silverbacks allocate defense duties to these strong males in order to protect the members from intruders.
Whatever you do in the jungle may be witnessed and reported to the dominant silverback by the gorilla spy network. Remember mountain gorillas have DNA of about 96% to that of humans.
They are moody too according to prevailing situations in the forest. Before entering the forest to head for gorilla habituation or gorilla trekking, you have to attend briefing so that you get a clearer picture of what you are about to interface with.
How Dian Fossey Used To Observe Unhabituated Gorilla Groups
To observe an unhabituated group for forty-two minutes was one thing to make visual contact with what would prove to be the entire family was completely unexpected and almost never repeated in the rest of the census.
Bill was able to see eight of the individuals well enough through high powered binoculars to draw their nose prints. Most animals display some individual’s identifications such as the variations in zebra’s stripes or the marks on an elephant’s ear.
The gorillas of group 4 and 5 were known to us at a single glance by their body type and posture. But to identify unhabituated and less well known gorillas, we depended on the unique patterns of deep lines that creased the skin above their noses. Sketches of these nose prints were kept at Karisoke for the purpose of monitoring individuals who were not members of long term study groups.
The value of this system was evident when upon our return to camp several days later, we were able to match four of the prints with those of three females and an adolescent from peanuts former group.
Viewing gorillas is informative and personally satisfying, but the heart of census work is the nest count. So with less than three hours of light remaining, Rwelekana and bill turned away from the gorillas and climbed back out of the canyon to look for the groups’ morning trail.
Finding it less than a hundred meters up the ridge, we back tracked South West across a broad herbaceous slope and into the kujiua gorge. After just over an hour, we reached the nest site of the night before on the far rim.
Twelve nests were counted, but none contained infant dung a disturbing finding for a group that probably had four to five breeding age females among its seven adult members.
Following a rapid return to the Grand Canyon, Bill and Rwelekana retrieved their packs and settled into the evening’s accommodations. The cave proved to be more of a recessed ledge in the canyon wall, perhaps six feet deep and no more than twenty feet long.
The only sign of a leopard was some very old scat in one corner but the single steep entryway to one side and the sheer drop off before us made for interesting thoughts about a possible return of the chui, as the leopard is known in swahil.After sharing a pot of beans and rice, however we stretched our sleeping bags out on the Rockledge and fell quickly into a deep sleep.
The piercing screams that next ripped the nighttime stillness were of a kind and intensity that bill had never imagined possible. After taking stock of where he was and the limited options for escape he turned on a flashlight and saw that Rwelekana, too was awake.
The screams returned, building to a terrifying crescendo. It was easy to imagine some poor creature being ripped to pieces and eaten alive, sinew by sinew, somewhere in the dark and brutal world beyond our cave.
Was the leopard the killer? Would it drag the remains back here? Seeing Bills widening eyes, Rwelekana smiled and whispered ikoimperere. Bill recognized the Kinyarwanda word for the tree hyrax, but he couldn’t accept that the shrieks could emanate from a mammal the size and appearance of a hedgehog. Some scientists classify the hyrax as the closet living relative of the elephant.
Others report that its banshee like vocalizations proclaim the hyrax’s territory and its readiness to mate. Before bill could rationalize either of these facts with his own perceptions, he fell back to sleep.
The next several days were less eventful, but nonetheless full. Additional nest counts confirmed the total of twelve individuals and no infants in the first group.
We found two more families totaling six and eight individuals on the North East slopes of the mountain. We dismantled an active poacher hut on the appropriately named anger Hill and destroyed a patch of marijuana near another poacher cave.
Unfortunately, we ran out of food and had to restock before we could finish all of Mt. Visoke. To save time if not effort, we took the most direct course back to Karisoke.
This meant crossing a succession of ravines midway up the mountain until we reached one of the research access trails. There we crossed a very fresh gorilla trail that we had to follow in case it revealed another unknown group minutes, we were face-to –face with a screaming ground-slapping silver back.
Given the style and the setting –another claustrophobic tunnel of vegetation –brutus seemed the likely candidate. We confirmed this identification as he repeated his ambush act four more times while we tried to move down the ridge toward camp trail.
There we parted ways, Rwelekana hiking down to his home off the mountain, while bill climbed the final half-hour to camp. From high above, brutus continued to vent his displeasure.
Bill‘s plan to return to finish the Visoke survey was delayed by another curious decision by Dian. She was quite keen to learn of bill’s findings and initially seemed encouraged that he thought there were more gorillas to be found on Visoke. It was disappointing not to find younger but the overall numbers were good.
So bill was shocked to receive a note from Dian the next day stating that she would no longer be able to afford the cost of the census effort.
At a maximum of $10 a day for two Rwandans and all the beans they could eat, expense was an improbable explanation. She was more likely concerned that the somewhat positive numbers would conflict with her public statements that the mountain gorilla population had continued to decline and was now below two hundred individuals. It was a dark view that increasingly matched her mood, for which she desired neither proof nor refutation.
What To Pack When Heading To Observe The Mountain Gorillas
- Safari tracking Boots
The jungle is rough and soggy because of the dense river network and regular rains so you need to wear footwear that can protect your feet from such conditions.
- Long trousers and long sleeved shirt
In order to protect your body from stinging insects, sharp surfaces and so much more, you need to wear clothes that cover the biggest part of your body. Packing safari convertible trousers limits on the amount of clothes you pack.
- Safari foldable hat
Your head needs to be covered from flying insects and water that drips off the leaves.
- Medicated insect repellant
Smearing your body with an insect repellant protects it from getting harmed by stinging insects in the jungle.
- A pair of stockings
To tack in your trousers and secure your body from sneaky insects that may enter, you need a pair of stockings.
- Raincoat or poncho
This area receives untimely rains so you need to prepare for this in case
- A pair of Binoculars
To see clearly far ranging attractions, you need a pair of binoculars.
- Garden gloves
Holding onto creepers may be inevitable at times or falling done when walking in the jungle but you need to protect your palms.
Some lodges may not provide such services so you need to pack your own.
- Energy Snacks
After breakfast, the time of returning for another meal after gorilla trekking is not known. You need to pack some energizers that you can munch on as you walk to see the mountain gorillas.
- A waterproof backpack
All your belongings need to be carried in one bag so that they are not scattered or wet when it rains.
For a goodnight sleep, you need to wear comfortable pajamas because this areas is extremely cold
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