Groomed by a Mountain gorilla, what would you do?

Posted on January 31, 2012

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How would you react if you had a 20-stone male eyeballing you while his Mrs and children clambered all over you?

Most people would probably need a fresh pair of undies as my friend BQ pointed out to me.

baby Mountain gorilla

Well one tourist probably did what most people would do and sat as still as possible without making eye contact. Yes it must have been an incredible experience, but primatologists fear there are hidden dangers for the apes themselves being so close to man.

In December 2011 a family of Mountain gorillas entered the tourist camp in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda and decided to check out the human population.

It’s very rare that this has happened. To be this close to them would be an amazing experience, but because mountain gorillas have not been exposed to pathogens that we (humans) may have become immune to, one man’s joy could have put this family at risk.

There are very strict guidelines about viewing great apes in the wild. The reason is to make sure they don’t catch the germs we are carrying. It’s not always possible. Researchers have found evidence that some great apes species have died from human respiratory viruses which are likely to have infected them from people entering their habitat.

This meeting of man and ape just goes to show  how habituated these gentle giants have become to us; not a good thing when poachers are also still operating in their habitat.

The Mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei ) have always been a source of fascination and a species I would dearly love to see in the wild one day (at a safe distance!!).

They are listed as critically endangered and although their numbers are increasing there are still only about 700 of them left.

They live within four national parks in Africa, split in two regions that are 45 kilometers (28 miles) apart. One population inhabits the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda; the second population of mountain gorillas is found in a mountainous region referred to as the Virungas, which includes Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (Uganda), Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda) and Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of Congo).

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Posted in: Branching out