Uganda’s mountain gorillas come far closer than we expect. And that’s a good thing

Posted in 30/09/2017

Our gorilla trek into the wilds of Uganda’s Bwindi National Impenetrable Forest brought us face-to-face with the 15-member Rushegura group, including this mother and baby. Jane Wooldridge / (Miami Herald)


The gorillas ignore us so completely that if one hadn’t brushed against my leg on her way to a new perch, we might have been invisible.

We’re trying to keep the proscribed distance of 20 feet, but the family of 15 gorillas ignores the theoretical boundary. When a female suddenly moves out of the thick green bush, there’s no time to scramble out of the way. Our ranger tells me to stand still until she passes, then beckons me out of the way lest she reverse course.

Even without that simple brush, our encounter with the gorillas is far closer than we had imagined. So is their total disregard for our presence. We might share 98.4 percent DNA with these linebacker-sized cousins, but by most appearances, they couldn’t have cared less.

The opportunity to spend an hour in the wild with one of the world’s estimated 35 gorilla families drew about 40,000 trekkers last year to Uganda, home to more than 50 percent of the mountain gorilla population. Since 2007, the country’s total number of annual tourists has almost doubled to 1.3 million, according to Stephen Asiimwe, CEO of the Uganda Tourist Board. Some 18 international airlines now fly to the international airport at Entebbe, including Emirates, Qatar, Brussels and KLM.

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