Tracking the gorillas at the Bwindi Impenetrable rainforest in southwestern Uganda is not what one might think. One may imagine, as I did, that I would hike for a few hours and come upon a clearing in which a bucolic scene of gorilla families eating and playing would unfold in front of me. The reality was much different.
There are just a bit more than 700 mountain gorillas left in the world – one for every 10 million people on earth – making them critically endangered. The mountain gorillas can be found in the Bwindi in Uganda and in parks in Rwanda and a small portion of the Congo.
Some primatologists say that the Bwindi population in Uganda may be a separate subspecies, though no official designation has yet been agreed upon by the scientific community. The 2006 census at Bwindi indicated a population of 340 gorillas, representing a 6% increase in total population size since 2002 and a 12% increase from 320 individuals in 1997. The 2011 census numbers from Bwindi should be released in the coming months.
The Bwindi only allows 64 gorilla permits per day – and the permit assigns a gorilla “family” to you for tracking purposes – eight permits per family and eight gorilla families. I was tracking the Kahungye gorilla family, a group that is newly habituated and has only been open to tourism since September 2011.
I will recount the specific tracking experience in a later post, which was not for the easily frightened or for the faint of heart. Until then I have included a video montage of my reporting and video images of members of the Kahungye gorilla family.
The mountain gorillas are indeed awesome creatures.