In Africa, the DR provides a sanctuary for endangered African Mountain Gorillas. In a country torn by civil war, these animals are increasingly compromised by the violent atmosphere. In the Virunga National Park, a group of dedicated park rangers have banned together to promote the gorilla’s future. The job is dangerous; many have been killed by rebels over the last several years. Continued protection of the gorillas depends on tourist dollars, which are hard to come by in a country such as the DR. However,
if you visit Virunga National Park, you will have the opportunity to come face to face and interact with these majestic creatures.
“We moved forward slowly and soon we were again signaled to stop and fan out. Maximus looked back at our party and indicated to a bush ahead which was being violently shaken.
In this group there were perhaps ten gorillas, with one dominant, unfeasibly large silver back male.
I sat on a tree trunk near a female gorilla nursing an infant. Beside her sat another gorilla grooming a youngster. She used her fingers and teeth to comb through junior’s hair. Junior was entranced.
Rambo appeared beside me and quietly explained how a gorilla builds itself a nest for sleeping. A young gorilla shares its mother’s nest until it reaches the age of about three. Nest-building only takes a few minutes as the gorilla just sits on a main branch and bend smaller branches to form a small platform.
I had been warned not to approach the gorillas but instead to wait and see if they came to me, which a few of the younger ones did when they brushed by me. One put her hand on my forearm, lifting it to inspect a scar on my arm.
Whilst I was being inspected, a male gorilla, unfamiliar to the group, appeared. We witnessed a frightening territorial display when the resident male became excited. He stood to his full height and began beating his chest and hooting. He inched toward the stranger, growling and gnashing his teeth. Soon the stranger disappeared into the jungle.
The hour we were permitted with the giant apes passed in what felt like minutes. Rambo rounded us up and led the way out. I trailed behind with Maximus and stole a few final glimpses, the last of which was of an infant clambering up the chest of a silver back, who patiently indulged the young one without protest.”
By Cindy-Lou Dale, a travel writer for GoNOMAD.com