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First Sighting, A Large Black-Back

Adult Male Gorilla, Sabinyo Family


Our first sighting was this adult male, a black-back, and he was not a happy chappy ... more below
Close Up Black Back, First Sighting

Close Up With a Black-Back

© Anouk Zijlma
As we made our way through the incredibly dense foliage, we could hear and smell the gorillas before we saw anything. The smell was very pungent, a bit like terrible body-odor. Their nests were just above us, and it's likely that some of the smell was coming from their morning poo, which they do in their nests (hence the need to build new ones every night).

Loud, angry, barking noises and lots of breaking bamboo made us a bit jittery. Two pregnant females were having a spat over food apparently. The rangers were talking urgently, but since I don't understand a word of Kinyarwanda, I thought maybe a quick retreat would be the safest move. Before we could do anything a huge crash right in front of us revealed this big guy. He was not too happy but it seemed to be settling down a little when I took this shot.

He is around 12 years old, his fur is turning slightly gray and he'll be a silver-back in the next few years. He is huge. About half an hour later he almost knocked me over. He came up from behind us as we were watching some of the females in the group, and I was apparently right in his path. A ranger grabbed me by the arm and pulled me out of the way just in time. He was so close I could actually feel his breath on the back of my neck. Scary but also incredibly exciting. Five minutes after that he banged me on the head with a bamboo branch.

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