Rwandan gorillas in our midst

One the mountain gorilla family, known as Susa, in Rwanda.
One the mountain gorilla family, known as Susa, in Rwanda. Rae Wilson

SO IN awe of a huge silverback mountain gorilla emerging from the mist curtain, I did not move fast enough from his intended path and I had a sizeable bruise on my shin to prove it. The second-in-charge silverback (they can weigh up to 200kg), kicked me as he charged through in a playful show of his power high in a Rwandan jungle.

Another gorilla tried to grab a fellow traveller's arm on the way past, while the 57-year-old mother in my small group of eight got a love-tap on the bottom as she had her photo taken. Habituated to deal with human interaction over more than a decade, these gorillas love to put on a show. Beating their chests with clenched fists, both the big boys and the babies, they walked around on two legs like humans - some at a height taller than us.


QLD151115GORILLA02: The mountain gorilla family, known as Susa, in Rwanda. Photo: Rae Wilson
QLD151115GORILLA02: The mountain gorilla family, known as Susa, in Rwanda. Photo: Rae Wilson Rae Wilson

They yawned, they blinked, they farted and they shoved food in their mouths at a rapid pace. Looking into the eyes of the males was like glimpsing the souls of wise old men. It felt as if they were reflecting back to us, the human group, the lessons they had learnt in this life.

The mums, clearly besotted with their young, radiated love and pride as they nurtured and groomed their babies. They nurse until their children are more than three years old. They were quick to move the babies to protect them if we humans came too close. But they knew the dominant silverback, the chief in the famous Susa family, was nearby so they did not rush away too far. If he made a gruff sound, though, the females had to fall into line and stop whatever behaviour was annoying him.


QLD151115GORILLA03: The mountain gorilla family, known as Susa, in Rwanda. Photo: Rae Wilson
QLD151115GORILLA03: The mountain gorilla family, known as Susa, in Rwanda. Photo: Rae Wilson Rae Wilson

We were told the mothers could have four to six children but there was no record of seven. Boys could impregnate from age 12 but they could not interfere with their dad's harem or violence ensued. Similarly, girls must move on to other families after reaching baby-making age at eight years to avoid incest.

Researcher Dian Fossey, made famous when her book Gorillas in the Mist was adapted for film, studied the Susa family before her death.

Be prepared for the trek into the jungle. The guides said it could take anywhere from half an hour to a couple of hours. Mine was three hours up a mountain, half of it in the mist and slipping on the bamboo forest floor. While the hike was tough and the price was hefty (about $975), the hour with these majestic endangered creatures was worth it.


Topics:  gorillas rwanda travel travel-international

Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Sorrento pair not going anywhere

PICTURE PERFECT: Petrit and Julie Istogu on the deck at Sorrento Restaurant and Bar.

Sorrento celebrate 6th birthday.

Fairytale PCYC team off to Mackay grand final

ON THEIR WAY: The PCYC basketball team is headed to the Mackay grand final.

Whitsunday basketball team off to grand final.

Locals fear that lookout could be lost

VIEWING PLATFORM: Troy Holloway, Ian McIlveen, Gloria Cheung, Davis Liu, Brett Morgan, Cathy Russell, Jenni Mahood, Petrit, Julie, Lindon and Lindita Istogu, Nigel Pemberton, Bill and Jenny Kellaris, Clay Bauman, Jonathan Peter and Corrie Gardner, are determined to protect the viewing corridors of Airlie Beach.

Locals fear that their lookout could be lost.

Local Partners

Have a camp and scare at BIG4

Halloween is just around the corner and Big 4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort is the place to be

WATCH: NASA space station is live, see the view from above

In this picture taken from NASA's International Space Station from April 2015, the SpaceX Dragon is captured with the 57.7-foot-long Canadarm2 robotic arm before its installation to the Harmony module.

See the world from a new perspective as space station passes Rocky

Community garden set for Palmwoods

Kay Nixon at the Palmwoods Community Gardens will be hosting a launch day and inviting the ecommunity to come along and sign up.

Parcel of land to supply sustainable gardening for community

Barry Gibb is coming to Bluesfest 2017

FANS: Barry Gibb talks to a fan next to a cardboard cutout of his young self.

Aged 70, Gibb has re-launched his solo music career with a new album

Angus T. Jones got miserable on Two and a Half Men

Child star's misery while shooting 'Two and a Half Men'

Bachelorette shock: "This isn't how it's supposed to go!"

Georgia Love pictured in a scene from The Bachelorette finale.

GEORGIA chooses Lee and leaves Matty J heartbroken.

Radio presenter's shocking joke about Dreamworld victims

Images from the scene after four people died on a ride at Dreamworld at the Gold Coast

Radio host taken off air after tactless Dreamworld joke

The Bachelorette fans rally around devastated Matty J

The Bachelorette runner-up Matty Johnson.

CALLS for reality dating show's runner-up to be the next Bachelor.

The Bachelorette finale: Georgia declares her love for Lee

Georgia Love with The Bachelorette winner Lee Elliott.

MATTY J left heartbroken in emotional grand final.

Have a camp and scare at BIG4

Fun for Halloween with Camp and Scare weekend at BIG4.

For all your Halloween festivities Big 4 has you covered

Want to own one of Australia's best restaurants?

TOP GONG: Mooloolaba Spice Bar has been named in TripAdvisor's Top 10 Australian restaurants for 2016.

Here's your chance to pick up one of the Coast's favourite eateries

Tough times in CBD: Woolies says goodbye Ipswich

Woolworths in the Ipswich Mall.Photo: Rob Williams / The Queensland Times

The last day of trading will be January 1

Look at me! Kath and Kim home up for sale

Kath and Kim from the iconic Aussie TV series.

'Crack open the Baileys and grab a box of BBQ Shapes'

How to fit 100,000 new homes on the Coast

Property, real estate, housing, suburb,  August 2016

Fitting 2m extra people in south-east Qld in 25 years a balance

Hinterland horse stud passed in for $8.25 million

UNREAL: This Maleny estate is incredible.

12-bedroom hinterland horse stud still available

Hit songwriter's Noosa mansion on market

SPECIAL PLACE: The Cintamani estate is going to tender, marketed by Tom Offermann Real Estate.

Is this Queensland's best property?