Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Day 23, Uganda, Africa

Ramzi had to leave us due to some familial obligations but he hopes to join us on another leg of our journey. Thanks Ramzi:-)))

OK, girls, now that we have all had our prophylactic anti malarials and our yellow fever shots, I have a surprise for you today....we are going to visit.............

the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, located in south-western Uganda. It comprises 331 square kilometres of jungle forests and contains both montane and lowland forest and is accessible only on foot and yes, you are right Nopi, it is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site.

The forest is one of the richest ecosystems in Africa, and the diversity of species is a feature of the park. The park provides habitat for some 120 species of mammals, 346 species of birds, 202 species of butterflies, 163 species of trees, 100 species of ferns, 27 species of frogs, chameleons, geckos and many endangered species.

The park is a sanctuary for coleus monkeys, chimpanzees and many birds (such as hornbills and traces) etc, but.......girls.....get ready for your own "Gorillas in the Mist" experience.... we are going to see the Bwindi gorillas.... (well, my personal favourite gorilla movie is "Mighty Joe Young")...

Did you know that the Bwindi gorilla, a population of the Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei), is found in the rain forests of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, and comprises about half the world's endangered population of about 600 Mountain Gorillas??

Sadly, disease, habitat loss, war, civil unrest and poaching are the greatest threat to the gorillas. As far as I know there are no mountain gorillas in captivity and those bred in captivity previously did not survive..

Okay, get ready....I have the permits (which I bought in advance), and the expert gorilla trekking guide is waiting to take us to the park which is in a remote location. Gosh, these roads are in a bad condition, but we are all now eagerly looking forward to the adventure that lies ahead. The income generated from these treks is used to protect the animals and their unique way of life...

We have reached the park and the trackers are ready to take us into the jungle....hopefully we will see a family of this magnificent, critically endangered ape species.....lets go....they can live quite deep in the jungle so we don't know how far we will have to trek before we see them......

The guides, Jack and Mike are extremely friendly and informative......and we had tons of questions....but we had to speak very softly so as not to disturb the animals..
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So what do they eat??
Mike says that the Mountain Gorilla is primarily an herbivore; the majority of its diet is composed of the leaves, shoots and stems,bark, roots, flowers, and fruit, as well as small invertebrates.

Adult males can eat up to 34 kg (75 lb) of vegetation a day, while a female can eat as much as 18 kg (40 lb)!!

Whoa, that's a lot of food.....but then again, it has a massive body!

The Mountain Gorilla is diurnal, most active between 6:00 a.m.and 6:00 p.m. Many of these hours are spent eating, hmmm; well I am sure that it takes a long time to eat between 18 and 34 kg of food!!!

It forages in early morning, rests during the late morning and around midday, and in the afternoon it forages again before resting at night.

And where do they sleep?
Jack told us that Bwindi gorillas build their nests in trees, nearly always in Echizogwa, a small under story tree, but due to loggers and poachers, the gorillas are slowly dying out.

Each gorilla builds a nest from surrounding vegetation to sleep in, constructing a new one every evening!! Only infants sleep in the same nest as their mothers. They leave their sleeping sites when the sun rises at around 6 am, except when it is cold and overcast; then they often stay longer in their nests.

Hmm, imagine having a new home every evening!

We continue our trek...deeper into the jungle....still in search of these majestic animals.......whilst the guides continue to answer all our questions....I really hope that we will see them today....

For reasons unknown, Mountain Gorillas that have been studied appear to be naturally afraid of certain reptiles, chameleons and caterpillars....Can you imagine a gorilla being afraid of a caterpillar??

They are also hydrophobic!!....

Did you know that the gorillas can be identified by nose prints unique to each individual....we have fingerprints, they have nose prints!

Sshhhhhh, we see something ahead.......it looks like a family......

Very quietly we find an observation point.............Wow........what a magical experience to be seeing these majestic animals, the rarest of apes, in their natural habitat.

The midday rest period is an important time for establishing and reinforcing relationships within the group. Mutual grooming reinforces social bonds, and helps keep hair free from dirt and parasites. The young gorillas are playing as it helps them learn how to communicate and behave within the group. Activities include wrestling, chasing and somersaults. This is such fun...and an unforgettable experience indeed.

So how do we distinguish between male and female??

Males usually weigh twice as much as the females, and this subspecies is on average the largest of all gorillas.

Adult males have more pronounced bony crests on the top and back of their skulls, giving their heads a more conical shape. These crests anchor the powerful masseter muscles, which attach to the lower jaw, or mandible.
Adult females also have these crests, but they are less pronounced.

hehe, this one looks like she is posing for us....

That one looks bigger!!

Yes, it is a silverback, an adult male gorilla, typically more than 12 years of age and named for the distinctive patch of silver hair on his back....(not very photogenic!)

The dominant silverback generally determines the movements of the group, leading it to appropriate feeding sites throughout the year.

He also mediates conflicts within the group and protects it from external threats.

He is the center of attention during rest sessions, and young animals frequently stay close to him and include him in their games.

If a mother dies or leaves the group, the silverback is usually the one who looks after his abandoned offspring, even allowing them to sleep in his nest.

Experienced silverbacks are capable of removing poachers' snares from the hands or feet of their group members.

When the dominant silverback dies or is killed by disease, accident, or poachers, the family group may be severely disrupted. Unless he leaves behind a male descendant capable of taking over his position, the group will either split up or be taken over in its entirety by an unrelated male.

When a new silverback takes control of a family group, he may kill all of the infants of the dead silverback. This practice of infanticide is an effective reproductive strategy, in that the newly acquired females are then able to conceive the new male's offspring. Luckily infanticide has not been observed in stable groups.

Severe aggression between two Mountain Gorilla groups can result in a fight to the death!
We sat there for about an hour and simply enjoyed observing them....in silence.....

Sighhhhhhh....its time to leave these magnificent beasts and make our way back through the jungle....back to civilisation......but these are memories that will remain with us forever….

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

good job

thanks forthe info

thats great work