Eastern Low-Land Gorillas : Kahuzi-Biega National Park

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” — John Muir

One year after I had first visited the Eastern Low-Land Gorillas (Grauer’s gorillas) in Kahuzi-Biega National Park near Bukavu in DR Congo, I decided to re-visit. It had been raining since we left from Bukavu around 0630 h and the cloud cover looked more dense as we climbed upto the Park HQ.

Kahuzi-Biega National Park HQ is about 35 km from Bukavu and it takes about 1 hour 30 mins to cover this distance.

It was interesting to reach the Park HQ and find the Park Manager Mr. Juvenal, Mr. Lambert and few other rangers to recognize and remember me from the last trip. Just for reference, here is the write-up on my first visit https://www.birdingjo.com/2023/03/the-unique-eastern-low-land-gorillas/ including the differences between lowland and mountain gorillas.

For better orientation and perspective about the areas / reserve forests for Mountain Gorillas and Eastern Low-Land Gorillas in DR Congo / Uganda / Rwanda, see the map below. The shaded areas are NOT a true representative of the size of these areas.

The rain-forest and the clouds amongst the trees are a sight to behold. It was still drizzling when we set foot on the trail to enter the jungle. Once inside, you do not know if it is raining or just the droplets still dripping from the canopy.

This is how the tropical rainforest looks like on a rainy morning. Somewhere, down there lives the family of Bonne Année, the silverback.
One of the rangers at an outpost of the Park Rangers spread across the area.

It was interesting and educative to see one of the outposts of the park rangers enroute to our start-point. To me, these rangers are heroes – for the stability they have maintained in an otherwise hostile and extremely challenging environment. Lack of tourism / poor business due to other factors adds to their challenges – yet, they are at it (some of them for over 20 years). I sincerely hope that things return to normalcy and their hard work pays off.

Despite the rain – we met !!

For about first 40 to 45 minutes, it kept raining with varying intensity. However, our guides and we were equally committed to meet Bonna Annee and his family. Initially the Silverback was alone and sitting atop a tree. once the rain stopped, it decided to come down and it was interesting to see how the other family members emerged from the undergrowth all around.

The handsome and gentle King Kong ! I had seen Bonna Annee and family during the last visit in Dec 2022.
I learnt one thing that whenever the rain became stronger, Bonna Annee huddled-up and sat quietly. It stopped feeding or even moving about.

Here is the most interesting part of the visit this time. You can see Siri and her young baby in the picture below. The baby is about 11 months old. I was super thrilled to see them both. You can see that Siri is physically challenged as her right eye is damaged. What you cannot see is that she also does not have the right hand (it was badly damaged in a snare some years ago – and amputated),

I immediately recognised her from last year and was super thrilled to see her with a young of her own. This shows a great acceptance, not only by the silverback alpha male but also by the entire family. The picture below shows them together.

Gorillas, unlike other primates are purely vegetarian. They feed on about 60 varieties of different plants depending upon the seasons and availability – A great reasons for this precious habitat to be preserved.

Just adding few pictures without text to give a better peek into the family dynamics of a gorilla family.

That is about 200 Kgs on the move … and others know very well, when they need to make way !
The young ones are playful and curious.
Mom, Dad, my brother and me (on the piggy back ride)
Me meeting my mum after school !
Sometimes, even Moms need to chillout !!
Family: An aunt and cousin brothers.that’s us in our living room !!
I always wonder – what did they think ?

I simply consider myself to be lucky to have this opportunity to be able to visit these Eastern low-land gorillas in probably the only intact natural habitat in the world !!

In case you are ever drawn to see these gorillas – you know where to find a reference.

“The most beautiful gift of nature is that it gives one pleasure to look around and try to comprehend what we see” – Albert Einstein

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