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Tracking the Mountain Gorilla – Bwindi National Park, Uganda

Primate Watch in the Impenetrable Jungle

The chance for an encounter of the closest kind with a rare mountain gorilla in its last remaining habitat is here in Bwindi National Park. The numbers of this powerful but gentle creature have been gravely reduced by poaching, while the political unrest in neighboring Rwanda has curtailed the great strides that were made by the late Dian Fossey at the Karisoke Research Center.

Today, half of the dwindling population of about 600 beasts lives peacefully in Uganda, a country that is once again courting tourism. Small, controlled numbers of visitors accompanied by author­ized guides are permitted to track the gorillas through what was formerly called the “impen­etrable” jungle.

The trail through the tropical rain forest is challenging and exciting, and while there is no guarantee that you will see the gorillas, the local guides are experts at interpreting every broken twig and second-guessing the animals’ daily routines. Different family groups of gorillas have been partially habituated to the human presence and eventually come in close to investigate their visitors – first the mighty silverbacks, the leaders of the groups, then the younger ones, followed by mothers carrying or nursing their babies.

The guides, many of whom are affiliated with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, are primate special­ists – adding an invaluable element to these trips.

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