5 Reasons Why You Should Go Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

After a long waited time full of imaginations, then you encounter the rare mountain gorillas relaxed in the wild is the best moment of truth! Despite the fact that several forests exist in the world, but few of them offer the world with magnificent wild creatures like the tropical rain forest in Uganda, Rwanda or Democratic Republic of Congo. One would ask if there are still forests in African continent given the fact that deforestation is claiming the natural forests at higher rate. Well, it all leaves imaginations running in our minds still, not until you get yourself to jungles of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest-Uganda, Virunga National Park in Congo basin or Montane forests in Rwanda. In the world, only Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) make up the 3 (three) destinations that offer useful values to world travelers in terms of wilderness experiences specifically being the habitats to world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas. The rare mountain gorillas do not live in the zoo and handful of them are still surviving in the world with total population of less than 900 individuals that are shared amongst the three destinations. You may wonder why these creatures are regarded as the critically endangered species in the world but it is best explained based on the several threats that have claimed the lives of the mountain gorillas. Gorillas are many in the world, but thousands of world trackers/trekkers flock into Uganda, Rwanda and DRC purposely to see the rare mountain gorillas and hence gorilla trekking forms one of the world’s sought after adventures.

Currently, tourism is basically dependent on the mountain gorillas although other wildlife species do inspire our senses. Like any wildlife species, the main threat to the life of the mountain gorillas has been poaching and habitat encroachment especially by adjacent local communities not until the government of Uganda and Rwanda have made efforts to establish the Volcanoes National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, and the Virunga National Park in DRC which also have implemented anti poaching patrols especially through recruiting park rangers and other security bodies to protect the lives of the mountain gorillas in the wilderness.  These conservation mechanisms don’t come from anywhere but from the gorilla fees that are collected from visitors during gorilla trekking; a reason why you should book your gorilla safari to any of the destination. Your support is highly appreciated as it will help to enhance visitor experiences!

Don’t bury your dreams! Although seeing the mountain gorillas in the wild is based on the probability, it is now a bit easier for you in Rwanda.

Below are highlights why you should book a gorilla safari to Rwanda.

It is estimated that around a 3rd of the world’s mountain gorillas are found in Rwanda. Previously, it has been difficult traveling from the United Kingdom (UK) to Rwanda not until recently that the RwandAir, the national flag carrier of Rwanda is yet to conduct three (3) weekly flights to Kigali-the capital city of Rwanda form London Gatwick International Airport.

Besides the rare mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park, tourists can as well pay a visit to Nyungwe House in Gisakura famous place for tea plantation adjacent to the Nyungwe National Park. When it comes to primates, Nyungwe Forest takes the largest part with 13 various primate species and about 75 various mammal species. In Africa, Nyungwe forest forms one of the ancient jungles in the continent.

Nature resorts have also been established by Ultra Luxury brand, one and only incredible resorts is the “Gorilla’s Nest” that are situated on the foothills of the Virunga Volcano range. Famously, this is a remarkable refuge for the critically endangered mountain gorillas! You can now explore the magnificent gorilla habitat while viewing these extraordinary wild creatures at ease. This is one of the unique adventures that you should not miss to take up while in Rwanda.

For long, gorilla fees have supported the conservation and protection of not just the mountain gorillas but also other wildlife species. This however, can lead other destinations like the Virunga National Park that is still recovering from insecurity to borrow the knowledge especially by encouraging his game rangers or conservationist to appreciate the value of conserving wildlife.

To some other people this might seem news in the ears but the fact is that mountain gorillas have previously been in the film industry specifically the Hollywood film in 1987, famously called “Gorillas in the Mist” especially at the time of the Weaver and Dian Fossey. Weaver was famous zoologist as Dr Dian Fossey was one of the great primatologists who conducted her research study on mountain gorillas in Rwanda. If you have ever heard about the first person to start gorilla habituation then the name “Dian Fossey” should ring in your mind! Today while you pay a visit to Gorilla Nest in Rwanda, don’t miss to reach Dian Fossey’s Karisoke Camp.

Further still, Sir David Attenborough also had remarkable moments with mountain gorilla around the Virunga Volcanoes. Probably if you have ever read about personalities who had great TV experiences in this destination, then Sir David Attenborough should come first in your mind. He further filmed series about “Life on Earth” for BBC in 1978 especially at the time when he interacted with these humble creatures face to face in the Virunga Volcanoes. While in the Virunga Volcanoes David enjoyed his moments with some of the young ones and he regarded it as “one of the most unforgettable moments of his career.” Don’t miss these incredible experiences especially as you enjoy the playful gorillas.

Whether you are planning for gorilla safari in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Volcanoes National Park or Virunga National Park; your mind should not think about mountain gorillas alone but lots of fascinating primates and forest birds. In the Virunga National Park for instance is a home to Eastern Lowland gorillas and Chimpanzees which makes it the only outstanding destination in the world that offers 3 (three) types large primates.

While in the Virunga, don’t expect only the primates to be juggling in this tropical rain forest but also the “Okapi” an elusive wild species that portrays the zebra in out look but mostly takes the largest part of the giraffe appearance.

If others have achieved their dreams with these extraordinary primates, then why not you! It is a golden opportunity to interact with these beautiful creatures in the wild. If you think about human close relatives then meet the gorillas in the wild. Encounter these intelligent and gentle creatures that share about 98% of their DNA with humans. Interacting with the mountain gorillas offers wonderful experiences especially when you learn more on their dignity.

At the time of Dian Fossey, she asserted that “The more you learn about the dignity of mountain gorillas, the more a person will wants to avoid people” and to prove her statement, then get yourself gorilla permit and track mountain gorillas in the wild. The gorilla permit costs $600 for Uganda, $1500 for Rwanda and $400 for Democratic Republic of Congo.

In conclusion, viewing mountain gorillas is a life changing experience that comes once in a life time. Gorilla trekking is more than just mountain gorillas but serene of other primates that come along the trek. Visit Uganda, Rwanda or DRC for ultimate mountain gorilla experiences and you won’t regret in life!

Planning an Independent Gorilla Trek in Rwanda

Are you contemplating on planning for a gorilla trekking safari yourself, but are confused on how to go about with it? You are not alone in this dilemma. When some tourists are planning to use the services of tour operators to plan for their gorilla trek. Others find it comfortable of plan their own gorilla trekking safaris though these are fewer given the logistics of planning a trip. As a matter of fact, planning for a gorilla safari by yourself is cheaper if you are well acquainted with the booking process!  It is very cumbersome and can really become challenging because you will need to plan for everything from the gorilla permit to the day you finally visit Rwanda for the safari.

Gorilla trekking is one of the exceptional tourist activities (actually the major activity) that draws thousands of tourists to Remarkable Rwanda – the Land of a thousand hills. With over 300 mountain gorillas within the Volcanoes National park alone (of all the 440 mountain gorillas within the Virunga Massif), it is no doubt that it takes the lion share of all the National parks within the Virunga Massif (Mgahinga National Park of Uganda and Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo). To plan for a gorilla trekking safari yourself needs adequate information on the availability, price of gorilla trekking permits and how to acquire them, transport means and fares from Kigali International Airport up to the Volcanoes National Park/accommodation facilities and back to Kigali after the safari, the accommodation facilities to book with and other helpful information (especially exchange rates, security issues and other tips required). However, with the information provided, it is a guaranteed that your personal gorilla trekking safari is going to be successful;

Booking for Gorilla Trekking Permits

The first and most important thing to consider is to book for a gorilla trekking permit at least 6 months in advance to guarantee your participation in the adventure. You will need to first check with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) for the availability of the gorilla permits for the day you wish to track the mountains gorillas. Currently gorilla permits for tracking one of the 10 habituated Gorilla groups is at $1500 per person. You can contact the RDB by calling +252 57 65 14 or send an email to reservation@rwandatourism.com or reach their offices in Kigali physically. If you are far, no need to worry because after making Payments, the scanned copy of gorilla permits can be sent to you.

Book for Accommodation Facilities

It is very important to book for accommodation in advance after confirming that the gorilla permits are available. Tourists are advised to book for accommodation facilities not far away from the trailhead and the Park Headquarters, but the best options for accommodation facilities include Bisate Wilderness Lodge/Da Vinci Safari Lodge/Sabinyo Silverback Lodge for tourists interested in Luxury options, Le Bambou Gorilla Village Mountain gorilla view Lodge for midrange facilities and Hotel Muhabura/Kinigi Guesthouse/Amahoro Guesthouse for budget facilities.

What to Pack for the Gorilla Trekking Safari

You will also need to know the right things to pack for the activity and they include long sleeved shirts, long trousers, a camera, a backpack, a pair of binoculars, strong waterproof hiking boots, long socks, a hat and sun glasses, a rain jacket/poncho, a sweater and insect repellant among others. On the day of tracking the mountain gorillas, make sure to hire a porter to carry your backpack and also carry a walking stick, packed lunch and enough drinking water among others.

After arrival at Kigali International Airport, it is important to book for transport to Ruhengeri

There are several local bus companies in Nyaburogo Bus Station, in Kigali that head to Ruhengeri town. It is important to book for a bus ticket at least 30 minutes in advance so as to travel on time. Different bus companies charge different prices, but the most popular one-the Virunga Express Bus charges around 2000 francs per person and the journey lasts only 2 hours.

Book for Transport to Kinigi Park Headquarters

Most buses only stop at Ruhengeri, hence you need another means to take you up to Kinigi Park Headquarters or to the accommodation facility. This journey always takes between 20 and 25 minutes and taxis charge about 300 francs and motor cycles charge about 500 francs depending on your bargaining power.

In conclusion, instead of booking for gorilla safaris through tour operators, most tourists are shifting to booking for the safaris themselves because it is cheaper but also involves a lot of legwork because you need to get information on the gorilla permit, accommodation facilities and transportation to and from the National Park.

5 Reasons Why You Should Visit Uganda for Gorilla Trekking

Many want to track gorillas in the best trekking destination in Africa, despite it being one of the most pricey wildlife adventures but still the most exciting in the world. The search for a perfect gorilla trekking destination varies depending on one’s budget and interest. However, Uganda stands out best for gorilla trekking safaris in all aspects including, transport, gorilla permit, accommodation and other attractions that travelers wish to experience.

Do you want to see mountain gorillas but you have a small budget? Fly into Entebbe and head out for a cheaper gorilla trekking safari to Bwindi forest or Mgahinga national park, two gorilla national parks in Uganda, the Pearl of Africa. Tracking gorillas in Uganda is very cheap and affordable either on budget, midrange or luxury travel arrangements.

Transport in Uganda

Visitors to Uganda are free to connect to different destinations of interest by road or air means of travel. Taxis, Boda boda, special hire taxis, Buses, self drive, are the common used road transport options for whoever feels like getting around. When using buses or taxis in Uganda make sure you keep your valuables and don’t eat food or drinks from other passengers.

Self Drive

Those looking at driving themselves (Self drive), use 4WD cars that is in good condition and first checks for spare tire changing equipments before embarking on any journey. Also make get the international driving license plus a log book photocopy. Respect all the driving rules and regulations on the road especially the speed.

Flying in Uganda

Uganda has multiple domestic flight operators including Aero link, Eagle air. Mission aviation fellowship that fly to national parks and other places making it easy for visitors to connect to any place any time. Some flights are scheduled while others are not and flexible for any traveler.  Remember, most of the airstrips are not located in city centers so you need a vehicle to move you to the exact place of travel.

Accommodations

There aren’t as many campsites in Uganda as there are in many other countries but you can stay in the available lodges, hotels and hostels. Various accommodation facilities are located close to every tourist attraction and airport making it easy for visitors to find overnight stay places even those on late flight arrivals. All accommodations cater for all kinds of travelers, luxury, midrange and budget and the choice is made by the travelers themselves.

Those on Uganda gorilla trekking safaris can sleep at Buhoma community bandas, Gorilla friends campsite, Broad Bill campsite, Gift of Nature, wagtail eco lodge, Nshongi gorilla camp and many others for budget option, while those on luxury gorilla safaris can opt for lodges like Clouds mountain gorilla lodge, Sanctuary Gorilla forest camp, Volcanoes lodge, Gorilla safari lodge, Ruhija safari lodge among others.

Gorilla Permits in Uganda

Unique mountain gorilla tracking and cheap gorilla permits are found only in Uganda. The time is now for everyone to go gorilla trekking in Africa at affordable rates. In both Bwindi national Park and Mgahinga national park ,gorilla permits cost $600 per a trek a price that is valid until 2019 a year in which the Uganda Wildlife Authority is planning to revise all the Uganda national park tariff rates. Even the discounted permits that cost $450 for April, May and November will remain a great opportunity for those looking at budget gorilla trekking safaris in Africa.

Today gorilla tourism is very important in Uganda and a base for most safaris in Uganda. Much of the safaris  are  for gorilla trekking to Bwindi forest and Mgahinga national park because it’s the prime tourist attraction in Uganda. However, tracking gorillas with a visit to other Uganda national parks like Kibale forest, Murchison falls, Queen Elizabeth, Lake Mburo National Park and Kidepo Valley is a great fantastic experience that no everyone should experience while in Africa.

DRC Park Rangers Recieve Support

This past year has seen the DRC Parks Relief Mission reach its goal and more. In October 1999 I stated our goal as an immediate, short-term, “bottom-up” emergency relief effort to provide emergency survival and morale supplies directly to the DRC Park Rangers, which we could reach during the war.” We clearly defined our exit strategy and we have successfully reached it. We have completed our goal by securely delivering materials to Kahuzi-Biega (PNKB), Upemba, Kundelungu, and Salonga National Parks, as well as manufacturing uniforms for all DRC Parks Gardes and producing the new Garde de Parc insignia patches for 1,600 personnel across the whole of the country. Our efforts and communications have also inspired an American NGO to begin working in Maiko National Park, the first efforts on-the-ground in a decade. You will remember that 100 percent of the Grauer’s Gorilla population occurs in DRC, half of the entire population are found in the Kahuzi-Biega and Maiko National Parks. So, these efforts are critical to the survival of this magnificent gorilla type. The PNKB Garde de Parc continue to monitor the gorilla population and still have not lost any since January 2000. Conservation successes continue!

Through the Gorilla Haven response and website, the Lukuru Wildlife Research Project facilitated support either financially or with in-kind services from 40 organizations and many more individuals from the global conservation community in nine countries on five continents. Gorilla Haven was one of the first to step forward … and they have extended support throughout the life of the DRC Parks Relief Mission.

Your direct contributions have enabled us to provide materials that respond to the emotional and physical needs of the Park Rangers (including things specific to individual parks) and aide them in monitoring, patrolling, and protecting their critical wildlife and habitats. They now know that their efforts are extremely important, that the international community cares and is providing concrete support on their behalf. Today the Congolese authorities have actively renewed their commitment to conservation. Large international conservation organizations and funding sources have now begun to reach the DRC. We have been contacted by several international organizations for advice about establishing disaster relief committees or emergency accounts to fund rapid actions in the future.

Our emergency resources and motivational support included: personal items (woman’s clothe pagne’s; 1,300 lbs of mixed clothing for men, women, and children; donated Zoo keeper uniforms; 100-lb bale of socks; pairs of flip flop sandals; and blankets), household goods (sacks of rock salt; large serving spoons; table knives; cups; bowls; buckets; matches; razor blades; lock & key sets; mosquito netting for beds; spools of thread; safety pins; sachets of 10 litre bidons; powdered milk; sugar; and cartons of soap), basic medicines (Amodiaquine Malaridose Zenufa – a relatively new malaria cure treatment 3-pill protocol; Chloramphenicd Collyre pink-eye drops; Amoxycillin capsules; Multivit multivitamins tablets; Paracetamol tablets; Fortified Procaine Penicillin – Injectible Benzyl penicilliin vials; Sachets of Oral Rehydrations Salts; Quinine Sulfate; Aspirin tablets; Indomethac Indocide muscle relaxant; Mebendazole tablets worm cure medicine; Metronidazole anti-helminthic and antiamebic; Erythromycine; cotton balls; syringes; sterile precision-glide needles; winged infusion sets; alcohol preps; sterile IV sets; sodium chloride drip bags; and Liquid cough suppressant for children), anti-poaching equipment and development tools (rubber boots; Coleman Nevada 2-person tents; Lafuma rain ponchos; Bergamo backpacks; 24” and 16” machetes; shovels; hoes to clear patrol routes; canteens; GPS units; 100 2-meter-sized industrial sacks to transport cash crops to market; salaries to the park personnel; a color printer; a scanner; computer software; construction materials to repair Ranger houses and administrative structures; a hydroelectric plant generator; and bicycles), communications equipment (40 Motorola walkie-talkies with rechargeable batteries and regular backup batteries; and new VHF radiophoniques with accessories including antenna, cables, 12V battery, solar panels), wildlife conservation education materials (posters; pencils; stickers; special cahiers and depliants; magazines; brochures; and tee shirts), administrative supplies and equipment (manual typewriters with spare ribbons; bics; reams of paper; and boxes of envelopes), and school supplies (construction paper; pencils; bics; blackboards; chalk; school books and materials; museum donated scientific literature; scissors; glue; posters; water color paints; paint brushes; cahiers; toys; and soccer balls).
In addition to these ventures, five issues of ‘Le Gorille – Parc Nationale de Kahuzi-Biega’ have been printed and distributed to the communal human population in and around PNKB. We have involved the United Nations in issues of environment and wildlife conservation. Our efforts supported the first survey of PNKB (conducted in June 2000 by ICCN and Wildlife Conservation Society) by providing important research equipment. In producing the Parc de Garde uniforms, 80 percent of the funds were spent in Kinshasa demonstrating the ideal union between conservation and economic

development.
The DRC Parks Relief Mission has achieved a tangible and meaningful conservation effort. We have witnessed park guards who have regained their identity, motivation, unity, and self-esteem. You and Gorilla Haven have made a difference! Thank you!

Pinkie Found Dead

Pinkie the Chimp

Pinkie, featured in the story about primates that survived human war, was found dead in the afternoon of May 20th. As usual, she was in her group of 34 chimps on a rainy spring day. When she didn’t show up for the afternoon feed, Tacugama staff began searching the perimeter of the several-acre enclosure.

The dominant male, Bruno, joined the staff in the search. Suddenly, from the interior, chimps started to make a noise. Bruno ran towards that direction and reappeared with the lifeless body of Pinkie. Bruno started to shake and prod the body as if he was checking for any sign of life. Bruno would not allow any chimp to come near the corpse.

Then all of a sudden to the staff’s surprise, Bruno tossed the body over the fence to the staff, who examined the body. It was cold, as if she had died a few hours earlier. She had a wound and an old blood strain above her right eye, but no other evidence to indicate she was attached by other chimps or bitten by a snake, or something else. She was found in an area with tall trees and the terrain is rocky. Perhaps during the rain she slipped from a branch and fell to her death.

It is a shame, that such a rare, beautiful life has been cut short at this tender age. Pinkie was a very special soul, and we shall miss her forever. May she rest in peace…

PINKIE & PIEH: Chimpanzees – Survivors of a human war

Pinkie & the Gorilla

In Cameroon at the PASA meeting in June 2001, Steuart and I met several wonderful people running sanctuaries helping orphaned primates in Africa.   Most of the sanctuaries specialized in chimpanzees and/or monkeys, since these are the two types of animals who seem to be rescued and somehow survive the traumas of their captures.  Gorillas tend to give up and die of depression and heartbreak.  But one photo in particular got my attention – a photo of Pinkie, a chimpanzee caught in the crossfire of the war in Sierra Leone …. So with the permission of Tacugama’s Sanctuary director, Bala Amarasekaran, here’s Pinkie’s story, to accompany his photos of Pinkie and her pal, Pieh,, sent by email 09 July 2001.

“Pinkie’s story is just about another Bushmeat Baby! Her mother was shot. The infant was about six weeks old, fragile, hardly any hair and Pink in complexion. The wife of the commissioner had already named her Pinkie and begged not to change her name.

Pinkie spent the first Eight months at my residence as she needed proper care. She has now moved to Tacugama and is part of the infant gang of Six. All the resident chimps know that she is just another chimp but with a different complexion! She is a favourite of all the chimps and they all have a soft corner for her and gets special treatment from everyone. Pinkie is 1 year and 10 months old….very docile but very playful. Still scared of heights and spends most of her time on the ground.”

in the rebel held territory(Gola Forest in Sierra Leone) bordering Liberia. The hunter was on his way to the nearest town (Kenema, a government controlled area) and was intercepted by the local Police commissioner at a check point. He was amazed by the unique appearance of the infant and decided to buy the infant for his wife as a pet. Pinkie was purchased for $200 . The police commissioner was not aware of our wild life laws and decided to bring the infant to the capital city, Freetown.

Fortunately, Tacugama runs an effective sensitization campaign and majority of the people in Freetown have knowledge on laws relating to endangered species and the existence of Tacugama. Some one who had visited the sanctuary in the past happened to see this white chimp wrapped up in a blanket, held in the arms of the wife of the commissioner. I was contacted the same night and I was able to track down the Police Commissioner, educate him with our current wild life laws and he  agreed to hand over the infant.

BUSHMEAT CRISIS: An Ugly, Painful & Complicated Problem in Gorilla Conservation

By Jane Dewar

Bush Meat Crisis is An ugly, painful and complicated problem that the media and most people refuse to acknowledge.

Bushmeat is a very painful topic for anyone who cares for wildlife. But it is important, and after careful consideration we decided to include this information on our website. Please note some of the photos below are horrific but reflect the reality confronting gorillas and other wildlife on a daily basis.

Bushmeat: The killing of animals, often endangered species such as gorillas, chimpanzees, monkeys, okapi, elephant, etc., for their meat, which is consumed as a delicacy and status symbol, NOT a needed source of protein.

For millennia man has hunted animals, taking only what he needed to survive and thus living in harmony with the natural cycles of life and death in Nature. Years ago, Native Americans hunted buffalo for their meat and pelts, taking what they needed, and giving thanks to God for providing the buffalo to help sustain them. People and buffalo co-existed as part of the Circle of Life.

Then the American West was opened up and more and more people moved into what had formerly been a wilderness. Railroads and highways were built and guns replaced bows and arrows making the killing of buffalo a commercial enterprise. Before too long, the American buffalo was almost extinct – wiped off the face of the earth by the greed and selfishness of a few people, who only cared about their own wealth and welfare, and not the future.

Today in Africa a similar commercialization of slaughter is going on, only this time, instead of a herd animal which has many babies in a lifetime, the victims are the African great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos), who only give birth every three to five years. The American buffalo was able to survive, but it’s unclear if the African great apes will be so lucky.

Virgin rainforests in Africa, home to rare, endangered animals like gorillas, chimpanzees, monkeys, okapi, duikers, etc., are being opened up with roads built by logging companies. Some African nations, anxious for the money hardwood from old growth rainforests can bring, allow foreign companies to come in and build roads into areas where animals once lived in peace, often never seeing humans before. Once into the forests, loggers chop down trees that are hundreds of years old to fill the demand for hardwood by many western nations, with the USA and Japan being some of the biggest customers.

Instead of bows and arrows, African hunters are now equipped with automatic weapons. Many laugh as trusting and gentle gorillas stand watching in curiosity before they have their heads blown off, by hunters who earn a premium for the meat of a dead gorilla or chimpanzee. Like the illegal drug trade, “bushmeat” pays very little to the actual supplier of the gruesome product, with more and more money being made as the “product” moves down the line to the ultimate customer, the burgeoning middle class in many African and European cities, who consider eating bushmeat a delicacy, like caviar.

Logging companies, perhaps unwittingly, play a large role in the bushmeat trade, since dead gorilla carcasses are brought from the bush into towns on the roads the logging companies build and in the logging trucks bringing the timber to ports. They are literally paving the way for the destruction of man’s closest relative: chimpanzees and gorillas.

Governments and logging companies both say they can’t stop the trade of bushmeat, which they claim is “cultural.” However, it’s not “cultural” to wipe out species at alarming rates, and African people are being insulted when the problem is reduced to such simplistic explanations.

Many people have been concerned about the escalation of the bushmeat trade for years, and the extreme damage it’s done. All the animals at the Limbe Wildlife Center are victims of the bushmeat trade. For each of the 7 gorillas who survived to make it to Limbe, it’s likely that up to 100 animals died. Often hunters kill the adults and take the babies to their logging camps to play with until the babies get sick and die or until they’re no longer amused by them.

thlokoincage.jpg (4261 bytes)thlokocutfromcage.jpg (3312 bytes)”Lucky” Loko arrived at the Limbe Wildlife Centre in December 1998. She was welded into this tiny cage, where she’d been for weeks, after being confiscated by authorities. Tony Chasar, one of Limbe’s American volunteers, cut her out of the cage, to discover her legs and muscles were so weakened by lack of use she could hardly walk or stand.

thlindaandloko.jpg (4908 bytes)I met Loko in May 1999 shortly after she came out of quarantine. Loko, here with Linda Percy, is a lovely little girl chimpanzee. She loves playing (her name means “to play” in a local dialect) with the other young chimpanzees in the Limbe chimp nursery group. After getting all the attention while in quarantine, Loko is learning to share with the others – with chimps, often a noisy lesson!

The biggest challenge is education. Limbe does a great job explaining why bushmeat isn’t good, suggesting raising rabbits and other herd animals as other sources of protein, since they reproduce faster and are not endangered. During one group’s visit to Limbe, someone asked how they could tell if they were buying a chimpanzee or gorilla when buying bushmeat, something people like to do for special occasions like Christmas or other holidays. Abel, a Limbe staff member, explained that bushmeat is often smoked and dried, cut into small bits while still in the bush to keep it fresh until it gets to a market, so the best way to avoid eating a chimp or a gorilla was to avoid ALL bushmeat! A good suggestion indeed!

No one’s children needs to eat bushmeat to survive or to get protein, as there are several other, more viable sources of protein to eat. Bushmeat is a luxury and like drugs, it’s a luxury that comes at an incredibly awful high price that the selfish consumer rarely considers.

thbushmeatbaby.jpg (3515 bytes)It’s simplistic to blame the African who buys bushmeat as a treat for his family. Many believe the forests always held enough food for them and their families and do not realize the extent of the destruction going on. Once they learn this, they quickly understand the problem and many are spurred into doing something about it, by going home to tell their family and friends to stop buying bushmeat. If the end-user isn’t there, the slaughter could and would stop.

What can you do to help? Learn more about this topic from The Bushmeat Crisis.

My thanks to Karl Amman**, Jim Moore, Tony Rose, Shirley McGreal and the countless other brave people fighting to get the word out about bushmeat

Tragedy in Paradise: Memories of Bwindi, the Impenetrable Forest of Uganda

By Jane Dewar
On March 6, 1999, I was interviewed and quoted in an ABC News online story about tourism in Uganda. I’m flattered and a bit surprised to be in the company of other amazingly well respected gorilla experts mentioned in the story. The tragedy in Uganda unfolding last week has hit us personally very hard. While we didn’t know any of the people massacred, we have been to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and have seen the awesome and inspiring mountain gorillas there. We stayed at the same camp where the tourists were abducted, and in more irony, I used to work for A&K, the tour company which operated the fancier camp called Buhoma. While there, we had armed guards around the camp, protecting our belongings (and us) in our tents from bandits, since the island of luxury in the middle of such poverty was a bit out of place and therefore in need of some security. The guards would walk us to and from our tents and the main dining/meeting areas. Typically, they were all smiling, friendly and eager to please.

Steuart and I wanted to visit Karisoke and the mountain gorillas in Rwanda, but 1994’s genocide there made that impossible. When we learned the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund’s scientific director, Dieter Steklis, was leading a small group to Bwindi in April 1995, we jumped at the opportunity, knowing full well the risks of traveling anywhere, but especially to a Third World country. We were pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of the people, who welcomedRwandisa.jpg (11098 bytes) “mzungas” (Swahili for white people) with huge smiles and frantic waves of delight. And while the actual trek to see the gorillas nearly killed me (another story – dehydration didn’t help), it remains the highlight of my life. They don’t call Bwindi the Impenetrable Forest arbitrarily! Seeing my first free-living gorilla – a juvenile hanging by one arm, dangling from a shaky tree branch in typical juvenile gorilla playfulness – was like a religious experience for me (photo left). I started to weep from sheer joy, until the Prozac kicked in and I regained my composure to concentrate on the experience and absorb the magic for the hour our visit was allowed to last. In another ironic twist of fate, I managed to take this photo (right) of the M group leader, Rwandesa, which at the time was one of the only good photographs taken of these hard-to-photograph and elusive animals!

The beauty of Uganda, its people and its wildlife are second to none. I’d been to Uganda in 1971 – just after the famous Raid on Entebbe and at the start of Daddy Amin’s reign of terror. When we visited in April 1995, it was the culmination of a life’s dream for me. Although I’d been to Africa several times before – Kenya, Uganda, Botswana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Egypt and South Africa, I’d never seen free-living gorillas. In 1971 I was staying with my dear friends who run Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, Kenya. Betty and Jock Leslie-Melville were going to see gorillas and asked if I wanted to come along. I was 17 years old and it would cost me another $200 or so. It might as well have been 200 million dollars, since I’d spent all I had just getting to Kenya, so I couldn’t/didn’t go.

Betty and Jock raved for years afterwards about the wonderful time they’d had. Years later I asked my friend (Betty’s daughter), D’Ancy, just where they went and who they went with, since in 1971 there was no gorilla tourism as it was to develop later. It turns out they went with Adrien DeSchrijver (Zaire), one of the pioneers in gorilla studies and conservation. Today I cringe when I think of this missed opportunity. I have no doubt if I had gone, I would have stayed in Africa forever, helping to defend gorillas. I might have even worked with Dian Fossey, and been killed, since my outrage for the killing of gorillas wouldn’t have had any diplomatic counterbalance that age and life experience would later bring. But I believe Fate has its own plans, and I was supposed to end up doing Gorilla Haven and helping gorillas in another manner.

At Bwindi, one day I didn’t go on the gorilla trek and stayed behind, talking to the park rangers and guides still there. They were all fascinated by this odd American woman, they named Gorilla Lady (a name that others have given me as well). I showed them photos of my then-home in Chicago and animals in my back yard such as raccoon, squirrel, possum, deer, coyote, etc.
They were fascinated to see these animals, which so many of us take for granted. I also had photos of me with various zoo gorillas, and wore my gorilla t-shirt, gorilla socks, gorilla necklace, gorilla earrings, gorilla bracelet, gorilla fanny pack, gorilla hair pin, etc, etc. Peels of laughter and shrieks of hysteria pierced the air when I told them I refused to show them my gorilla underwear! I smile now when I think about the sweetness of the Ugandan people and then feel a deep sadness to think that some of these men and boys might well have been involved in last week’s tragedy.

It is important to remember that almost one million people have lost their lives in this region, due to ethnic hostilities. If humans can’t get along, the future of all wildlife including these magnificent gorillas is in serious jeopardy.