band of gorillas

It is Christmas eve, and I am bicycling along a laterite track to check on my camera trap.  It has been in place for a week since my last visit.  The extreme heat and humidity shortens the battery life, making it advisable to freshen the batteries at regular intervals.

Concealing my bike behind a mess of vegetation, I notice a set of hippo tracks heading along the sandy path bordering some inundated forest.  I lose the tracks abruptly as they turn off to a lagoon.  Now a  set of elephant tracks appear, so fresh I can see the detail from the soles of its feet where they press into the sand.  Monkeys have crossed the track everywhere, and I hear moustached monkeys  in the trees as they chip out their warning calls, scuttling through the branches on my left.  Butterflies dazzle across the track in flashes of blue and purple and black and white.  200 meters into the sand track, I come to a patch of disturbed ground.  Sand has been dug and thrown from the track; it appears something  has been running off down the trail.  As I continue, I begin to see a wide flat footprint here, and a set of knuckle-prints there, suggesting that a gorilla has been moving quickly along the path.  It looks like several, perhaps a small band of gorillas have passed this way, very recently.  So recently, in fact, I am feeling a little nervous, and I strain to hear every rustle and crack in the bush.  With a few hundred meters to walk before reaching my camera, I can only hope that the gorillas have continued along the path ahead, and that the camera was ready to capture their passing.

A band of ten gorillas make their way along a sand track on December 23, 2013, shortly after sunset. The silverback male. apparently alerted to the camera position, stops momentarily for a closer look.

I have been fortunate today.  The gorillas have crossed through the camera zone, and later when I have returned to Yenzi, I see that they were running in the dark of the previous evening well after sundown when they should have been in repose.  Something must have alarmed them to be traveling in such haste and after dark, eyes reflecting back from the flash of infra-red illumination.  It could have been a hunter, or people driving a vehicle nearby.  Perhaps a leopard, or an angry elephant.  A swarm of bees, or even a marching army of ants.  Without something triggering the camera trap behind the gorillas, it is impossible to know what caused their exodus.

I count ten gorillas in total, including two females with infants riding their shoulders, a few juveniles, and a large silverback male bringing up the rear.  The silverback hangs back momentarily, perhaps sensing the presence of the camera, before resuming his departure.

8 responses to “band of gorillas”

  1. What a lovely gift your evening must have been. We are thinking of you both and hope you are doing well. Cheers and Happy New Year.

  2. David,

    I have recently been introduced to your blog, I have been working in Gamba for +-16 months and have a love for the out doors. Being on 28/28 rotation we miss on all these good things that are so very close to our everyday lives out here. I have also shared your blog with my family back in South Africa who read with interest. Thank you for sharing your adventures with us, this one in particular is beyond words.

    I look fwd to your next blog, although i recon this one will be hard to top!
    Well done!


    1. Rob,
      Thank you for writing. Perhaps you could stay a day longer or return a day earlier when you start your next 28/28. If you set something up with me, I would be happy to show you a condensed version of some of the beauty surrounding you.

  3. David, do not leave us in suspense. What was upsetting the gorillas? Mom

    1. Ok, Ok, I have updated the story to explain that I don’t really know what was upsetting the gorillas.

  4. Heidi Kapacinskas Avatar
    Heidi Kapacinskas

    David — I agree with your mom — give us the whole story!!

    And, a very happy new year to you and Lisa — may you experience peace, happiness and excitement in your continued African adventures…


    1. Thank you Heidi. And Happy New Year to you and to Katie. I hope Katie is writing more haikus.
      To update you, I have provided more detail to my gorilla story, to clarify that I don’t really know what upset the gorillas, since nothing was recorded (by camera trap) following them. I have set out two more camera traps to try to capture additional pictures. Stay tuned! David

      1. Heidi Kapacinskas Avatar
        Heidi Kapacinskas

        Hi again — Well, Katie did write a few more poems, but has since shifted to Rainbow Loom bracelet’s the latest craze over here…she’s leaving the poetry to her mom, I guess, and even though writing is my thing, I’ve had little time to do that lately as I am practicing law again full time for my former law firm. It’s all good though, as my firm set up a home office for me and I have a flexible schedule and full-time benefits status. A pretty sweet deal! Now I just have to save up my $ for some trips abroad! 🙂 There is a method to my madness! 🙂 Take care, Heidi

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Powered by