Gorillas – the one primate in Central Africa that everyone wants to see. Having not had any luck in Gabon, I went in search of them in the Democratic Republic of Congo . Nothing can prepare one’s heart, after trekking through the humid jungle for hours, for the sound of a Silverback male gorilla’s chest thumping in the distance.
Wars against Gorillas
Most areas where gorillas are still found today have at some stage been ravaged by war. For this reason gorillas, lowland or mountain species, have retreated as far up into the mountains as possible. Their habitat is slowly being turned into subsistence farms, and they are hunted as food and their young sold off to scrupulous live animal traders. The Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the south east of the country has managed to protect a few families far up in the misty jungle covered hills. Taking us into the jungle was an experienced tracker and guide, as well as two ‘hackers’, who would cut through the dense undergrowth to make a path.
Surprise! A gorilla two meters in front of us.
After a few hours, and having heard the chest thumping nearby, the vegetation suddenly erupted in front of us with thunderous thumping and a blur of black. Without realizing it we had actually walked right into the gorilla family, and Moheshi, the Silverback male, had charged and was now swaying on all fours not more than 2 meters in front of us. Fortunately none of us bolted as this could have been a fatal choice. Looking at his muscles and teeth, we kept well behind our guide who was a familiar figure to the gorilla family. And then Moheshi sat, knowing his display had sorted out who was the alpha amongst us, and started to eat.
Stay lower in height than the Gorilla.
We all crouched down, aware that we had to stay lower in height than him. Suddenly, we realized how many gorillas were around us. Youngsters swung through the foliage, sliding down branches and hanging upside down to peer at us mischievously. One baby was more interested in a crawling insect than in us. The females sat around, feeding and preening, one lying lazily on her back watching the youngsters above her.
Moheshi sat leaning against a tree, munching on a few leaves and occasionally glancing our way. Then he yawned, displaying his impressive set of teeth and suddenly charged us again. We decided it was time to leave him and his family in peace.
That’s our story! Have you enjoyed our experience with the Gorillas in Central Africa? Well, don’t forget to Subscribe to our newspaper for similar stories of our African safari tour. Feel free to drop a comment below.