I’ve been rifling through the Team Leader’s photo file again, and trying not to wish I had taken these shots. As I said in an earlier post about the Congo, Graham went on an Africa overland trip a long time ago. He calls this era TBT – Time before Tish. He knows that I am deeply aggravated not to have visited all the countries he travelled through back then. Still, it means that you and I can at least enjoy these glimpses of one of the world’s most magnificent creatures.
These photos were taken in the Virunga National Park, in the north east corner of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They were taken in peaceful times. Tragically, in the last few decades since the Rwandan genocide of 1994, this vast park has become a haven for armed militias. (The background to this situation is covered in the Congo post). By 2008 it looked as if Virunga, one of the most bio-diverse places on earth, had been destroyed. But since then the park has been restored and much of this is down to the brave Congolese rangers who continue to risk their lives to protect the wildlife, including nearly 500 mountain gorillas. Parts of Virunga are even safe once more for tourism.
Photo: Gorilla.CD Virunga National Parks official website
The Gorilla.CD site is the best place to go for up-to-date reports on the Virunga National Park and its gorillas. Also see their gorilla blog for more fantastic pictures. And take a look at the fund-raising projects which need everyone’s support. Some one hundred and fifty rangers have been killed by militias. The most recently reported attack was in January this year (Virunga National Park Ranger Killed in DRC). Gorilla.CD has a project to support the rangers’ widows and children.
And yes, I did say it: tourism in this area is being revived. It takes place in part of the park where there is no militia threat. The Virunga National Park (3,000 square miles) is run by the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature and is a UNESCO world heritage site. May be one day I will go there too.
© 2014 Tish Farrell
14 thoughts on “Gorilla Guards in Virunga”
Nice one. Not only superb Gorilla photos but a very informative post too. Let’s hope that peace comes to Africa one day, though whether that will be in time to save all the animals that are being destroyed is debatable.
Thanks a lot, Jude. Yes, the threat to wildlife seems pretty awful in so many places. But there are solutions. One is for local people to value it because it makes them an income in tourism terms. The other is to stop whoever these outsider arms dealers are who fuel conflict for their own ends. Hm.
Enlightening facts about my friends and neighbours
Thanks for this link. Great stuff.
you amused me with ” TBT – Time before Tish “
I can relate to you feeling envious of your husband’s travels. I saw a short video just recently on FB where a British guy had his camera set up waiting for the gorillas. They came and surrounded him and touched him – all very gently and respectfully, and then they disappeared into the bush. The man looked so thrilled, he couldn’t stop smiling and shaking. The gorillas are amazing animals and it is so sad that they are threatened. It seems like a tremendous effort is being made to protect them to the point where people are willing to risk their lives for them.
Yes, indeed. So much wildlife is under threat simply because people can’t get enough protein. The militias of course cause a multiplier effect of instability – so that farmers can’t farm. Also the militias hunt bush meat. But the roots of all this poverty and unrest spread way beyond the war zones. So much comes down to raw materials that the industrial world wants – coltan, diamonds, gold…
Sadly, it’s always about the money, isn’t it…
Wonderful TBT pictures! I’ve not been there, but when we were in Uganda they opened their gorilla areas in Bwindi for visitors. We were one of the first ones to trek there with a special permission from government, but were not lucky to spot the gorillas…they were too far away and the trails were not yet built at that time. I wish I could go back there or to Virunga one day.
That sounds oh so tantalising and v. frustrating to be close, but not close enough. Still, trekking in the gorillas’ vicinity must have been exciting too. Come to think of it, some of the safaris that we did when we didn’t actually see the things we were looking for, have remained the most memorable; perhaps because we were looking so hard!
I love gorillas. They always look to me so gentle and sad. I went to the website, but it’s down for maintenance at the moment. I’ll check back tomorrow and hopefully it will be back up. Thank you for these wonderful stories and pictures.
Glad you liked it Marilyn. Gorillas are relatives after all, aren’t they. I think we could learn a lot from them.
If we can just keep from killing them off before we find out what they can tell us … and when I look into those eyes, I’m pretty sure they have a lot to say.