There are about 700 mountain gorillas in the world, all of whom live in the forests of Rwanda and Burundi. If you wish to have the privilege of visiting them you must pay $500 for a permit plus the cost of 4 wheel drive transport. But that steep price comes with a veritable guarantee of a sighting since the daytime trackers follow each family’s movements and communicate their coordinates to the guides of the 8 person groups. (These trackers also perform the function of deterring poachers, something they have been doing successfully for the past 10 years).
There are 8 gorilla families (out of 30)that have become sufficiently habituated that humans can safely approach them. We spent an hour with family 13.
Agashya, the silverback patriarch of the family has 9 wives and 15 children. We saw about half of the family: the children swung from vines, climbed trees, played in water, beat their chests and everyone spent a lot of time eating bark and bamboo. A baby nursed and the grand silverback seemed to pose for our cameras. We were often no more than 10 feet away. It was thrilling!
Hanky Panky CEO, Lida Orzeck is currently in Kigali, Rwanda with the International Organization for Women and Development, a medical humanitarian organization that brings volunteer surgeons and nurses to operate and care for women who suffer from obstetric fistula, and at the same time, train local surgeons in these surgical skills.