Meeting mountain gorillas in Rwanda
Blood was the last thing Peter Moore expected to see when he visited the mountain gorillas in Rwanda.
The endangered mountain gorillas of central Africa range across one of the most volatile regions on the continent.
Just recently, six of the rangers responsible for protecting them in the Democratic Republic of Congo were killed by rebel militia.
When I visited the mountain gorillas in Parc National des Volcans in Rwanda they were having problems with rebel groups too.
There was a dusk-to-dawn curfew in Ruhengeri, the nearest town to the park. And when me and my two mates turned up at the ranger headquarters we discovered that we were the only visitors they’d had for days.
We were assigned a ranger each. They each carried a battered old rifle and piled in with us into our tiny Suzuki Jimny. Six grown men, three of them armed. It was quite a squeeze.
“We bounced along the heavily rutted road towards the mountain where the gorillas lived – a tangle of limbs and weapons, wedged into a tiny Japanese 4WD.”
Finding the gorillas was a case of going to the last place they been seen and following the trail of crushed vegetation to their new eating spot.
But when we reached the place they’d been the day before, we were alarmed to find a huge pool of blood.
I asked Samuel, the lead ranger, if it was the work of poachers and he shrugged his shoulders with alarm. Then he set off down the path of bent and broken vegetation with his two colleagues, fired by a real sense of urgency.
When we found the gorillas, the rangers gave a whoop and laughed with relief.
A group of around 30 of them were sitting happily in the lush vegetation. The adults were lazily snapping off stalks and chewing on them. The youngsters played rough and tumble in the bushes around them.
What about all that blood? Samuel noticed my confusion and pointed to a large female. She was sitting to the side, flanked by two other females, cradling a new-born baby.
A very large and very mean-looking silverback sat by watching, making sure we didn’t get too close.
The Susa group – named after a local river and the largest group of gorillas in the park – had just even gotten bigger.
For more information about visiting the mountain gorillas go to VisitRwanda.com
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Main image: A male silverback in Volcans National Park, Rwanda (© Peter Moore)