Travel

Rwandan gorillas in our midst

One the mountain gorilla family, known as Susa, in Rwanda.
One the mountain gorilla family, known as Susa, in Rwanda. Rae Wilson

SO IN awe of a huge silverback mountain gorilla emerging from the mist curtain, I did not move fast enough from his intended path and I had a sizeable bruise on my shin to prove it. The second-in-charge silverback (they can weigh up to 200kg), kicked me as he charged through in a playful show of his power high in a Rwandan jungle.

Another gorilla tried to grab a fellow traveller's arm on the way past, while the 57-year-old mother in my small group of eight got a love-tap on the bottom as she had her photo taken. Habituated to deal with human interaction over more than a decade, these gorillas love to put on a show. Beating their chests with clenched fists, both the big boys and the babies, they walked around on two legs like humans - some at a height taller than us.

 

QLD151115GORILLA02: The mountain gorilla family, known as Susa, in Rwanda. Photo: Rae Wilson
QLD151115GORILLA02: The mountain gorilla family, known as Susa, in Rwanda. Photo: Rae Wilson Rae Wilson

They yawned, they blinked, they farted and they shoved food in their mouths at a rapid pace. Looking into the eyes of the males was like glimpsing the souls of wise old men. It felt as if they were reflecting back to us, the human group, the lessons they had learnt in this life.

The mums, clearly besotted with their young, radiated love and pride as they nurtured and groomed their babies. They nurse until their children are more than three years old. They were quick to move the babies to protect them if we humans came too close. But they knew the dominant silverback, the chief in the famous Susa family, was nearby so they did not rush away too far. If he made a gruff sound, though, the females had to fall into line and stop whatever behaviour was annoying him.

 

QLD151115GORILLA03: The mountain gorilla family, known as Susa, in Rwanda. Photo: Rae Wilson
QLD151115GORILLA03: The mountain gorilla family, known as Susa, in Rwanda. Photo: Rae Wilson Rae Wilson

We were told the mothers could have four to six children but there was no record of seven. Boys could impregnate from age 12 but they could not interfere with their dad's harem or violence ensued. Similarly, girls must move on to other families after reaching baby-making age at eight years to avoid incest.

Researcher Dian Fossey, made famous when her book Gorillas in the Mist was adapted for film, studied the Susa family before her death.

Be prepared for the trek into the jungle. The guides said it could take anywhere from half an hour to a couple of hours. Mine was three hours up a mountain, half of it in the mist and slipping on the bamboo forest floor. While the hike was tough and the price was hefty (about $975), the hour with these majestic endangered creatures was worth it.

 

Topics:  gorillas rwanda travel travel-international


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Ballina koalas faced with extinction

Ballina's koalas are under threat.

About 36,000 koalas left in NSW face an uncertain future

An emotional Mike Baird: 'There was great personal cost'

"After 10 years in public life, this moment for me has arrived."

Surfer calls for second shark net off one coastal town

SIGNS OF SUPPORT: Young protesters make their opinions clear at a rally in support of shark nets at Ballina last November. More than 500 people attended the event calling for the immediate installation of the nets. PHOTO: ALINA RYLKO/ THE NORTHERN STAR

Kids surfing near the Lennox Hotel are at risk of shark encounters

Local Partners

41-year-old playgroup under threat of closing down

IT'S been an important part of the Ballina community for decades, but this playgroup could be forced to shut its doors.

See turtles up close on rescue centre tour

SPLASH: This green sea turtle, held by Australian Seabird Rescue general manager Kath Southwell, splashed some of the children on a tour of seabird rescue's headquarters.

The turtles don't mind giving the tour groups a splash, too

Shrek on stage

POPULAR MUSICAL: Shrek (River Fullagar) interrupts the wedding, shocking Fiona (Hillary Goodsell), the Bishop (Grace Pateman) and a furious Farquaad (Lachlan McGeary) in the Ballina Players' latest production.

The best-known green ogre is the star in Ballina Players production

Humble Cortina expected to shine at show

BOYS TOYS: Members of the North Coast Street Machines (from left) Errol Beaumont, Steven Fitness, Les Eckersley and John Stanford are ready for this Sunday's show and shine in Ballina, with their vehicles (from left) 1964 EH Holden, 1962 S Series Valiant, 1934 Ford, 1969 XW GT Falcon and a 1974 L Cortina.

There aren't many who can say they own thefirst car they bought

Naomie Harris in the dark over Daniel Craig's future as 007

Naomie Harris has no idea if Daniel Craig will be returning as 007

REVIEW: Will Kasey Chambers' Dragonfly take off with fans?

Kasey Chambers’ new album Dragonfly gets 3.5 stars from Cameron Adams.

CHAMBERS is back with her 11th studio album.

Ed Sheeran wants Beyonce collaboration

Ed Sheeran wants to record a duet with Beyoncé.

Nicole Kidman squirms through questions on Keith

Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban

'God, you guys are personal ... that’s for him to talk about'

Mark Salling's child porn court date cancelled

Mark Salling's upcoming court hearing has been cancelled

Steve Carell pulls cruel prank on fans of the office

Steve Carrell decided to pull a cruel prank on fans of The Office

Thousands of jobs part of $1b retirement village project

THIS YEAR: An artist impression of the new Aveo retirement village in Springfield.

Aveo Springfield unveiled this month, homes ready by July

KNIFE-EDGE: The housing tightrope we now face

Even the smallest interest rate rise will be hard for some to handle.

One if five home owners at risk, according to new analysis

Historical home leaves family's hands after 75 years

SALE CONFIRMED: The Gympie Regional   Realty team which sold the Ramsey property are (back) Mel Gastigar, Dorothy Palmer and Margaret Cochrane, with (front) home seller Terri-Jayne Ramsey.

Ramsey family played a huge role in Gympie's growth.

Pat Rafter's $18m Coast home proves hot property

PAT'S PAD: The Sunshine Beach home of tennis ace Pat rafter is on the market for a record price.

"It's a record for our company and for the Sunshine Coast.''

INTERACTIVE MAP: Which Northern Rivers towns boomed in 2016?

BOOM TOWNS: While Ballina properties continued to attract top dollar in 2016, it was areas to the south that experienced price hikes, including Wardell, Evans Head and Woodburn.

Click on our map to find the median sale price in your town

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!