Gorillas in Africa’s Midst: Kate Humble in the Congo
In October 2017 Jonny travelled to Central Africa with broadcaster Kate Humble and cameraman Andy Thompson to make a short film about the primates of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Invited by the award-winning conservationist John Kahekwa, with a view to helping put Kahuzi Biéga National Park, and the endangered eastern lowland gorillas that live there, back on the tourist map, I felt a film about the region would be most effective way to help. And having worked with Kate in the past I asked her to come along and present.
Chimps in Rwanda
And so it was that the three of us flew to Kigali and from there drove down to Rwanda’s southwest border. If we were going to sell trips to the region, and hence provide much needed tourist dollars to this deprived corner of Africa, it was important we had more to offer potential tourists than solely the gorillas of the Congo. As such we first visited the Nyungwe Forest National Park where we trekked deep into the jungle to find the elusive chimpanzees before crossing the border into the DRC.
Once in the Congo we first visited the Lwiro Chimpanzee Sanctuary which is currently home to 72 chimpanzees and 92 monkeys from 11 species. Here we saw the work the sanctuary does to improve the lives of orphaned primates, many of whom are affected by poaching and human encroachment on their natural habitats. It also gave us the chance to see firsthand everything John and his Polé Polé Foundation – which was celebrating its 25th anniversary while we were there – is trying to eradicate.
Gorillas in the Congo
But then it was time for the main event, to trek to see the gorillas. Accompanied by John and the local trackers we struck off into the forest. The group we found was called Chimanuka, named after the large silverback alpha male, boss of the group – lying on his back, scratching his belly – and 18 other gorillas with, very unusually, only one female and 17 young males. Wearing facemasks so as not to pass any germs between us, we sat and watched mesmerised as they fed, groomed each other and just basked in the sun. Some of the younger ones were so inquisitive they came to within touching distance of us. Others play fought with one jumping up and beating his chest, as if to say don’t forget about me. It’s hard to describe what a thrill this was.
As a result of this trip we are making the Pole Pole Foundation our special charity for 2018. For more information about this project please visit The Wild Frontiers Foundation.