Touched by a Wild Mountain Gorilla – The Real Story

The response to posting this video has been overwhelming. Many people around the world have expressed their wonder and support for these beautiful and unique endangered creatures – The Mountain Gorillas. With so many questions we are posting this background to help answer them. Also please take a look at additional images of the gorillas in earlier blog posts on this site.

Background for  the video, “Touched by a Wild Mountain Gorilla,” produced by John J King II (youtube channel- aleutiandream)

Video Credits: John J King II , Pam King and  Jonathan Rossouw

Music Credit: Apertura, Gustavo Santaolalla, The Motorcycle Dairies

NOTE: Some have asked to experience the encounter as we did without a music bed. That video is here.

ALL Rights Reserved by John J King II, Jonathan Rossouw and The Common Flat Project

Background:

Video was shot in a private safari camp (Gorilla Forest Camp)  near the Bwindi National Park in the southwest of Uganda. This is a beautiful preserved section of mountain rainforest nestled into an agricultural area of Uganda, but fiercely protected by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. Bwindi is home to roughly half of the world’s population of endangered Mountain Gorillas – roughly 350 individuals.

For the past twenty years, dedicated wildlife enthusiasts have visited this remote part of East Africa for the express purposes of witnessing these magnificent creatures. It is not an easy place to reach – it takes roughly a days’ drive in a four wheel drive vehicle over some pretty challenging roads to get to the village. Access is gained to the forest through a system of permits which are limited but may be purchased through the UWA. Permit holders gather daily after having acquired their permissions, sometimes many months in advance, and are assigned to trek with a local ranger, several trackers and often porters to help carry heavy camera gear (and support the local economy). Standard hiking gear including raingear, lunch and 4 liters of water are required to ensure preparation for a trek that can take any where from 1 – 8 hours to find the gorillas.

Hiking is through rain forest and behind machete-wielding trackers whose job it is to try follow the movements of several troops of wild gorillas that have been habituated to the prescence of humans. This means they are wild, but over a period of years they have been socialized to the visual presence of humans and are no longer afraid; they will not attack or run away when humans are present. This process is very time-consuming and requires amazing patience on the part of local wildlife rangers, as they spend time with these animals daily for months and years in all conditions.

The pay off is huge for thrill seekers like us, because it makes it possible for wildlife junkies to observe Mountain Gorillas in their normal daily lives. There are no guarantees that the gorillas can be located on a given day so trekkers are warned that their $600/day permit may just produce a nice spirited hike in the forest and no gorillas. Rainchecks and do-overs are not permitted. Most trekkers are rewarded however with sightings. Once located, human thrill seekers are permitted exactly one hour with the troop. The experience is magical and the time goes by in a flash! Typically the gorillas ignore the gawking and clicking human visitors who are required to stay approximately 7 meters away.

Very occasionally young gorillas are curious about humans and may approach, but this is very rare. Adult gorilla to human interactions are virtually unheard of among the local rangers! Mountain Gorillas also occur and may be seen in this way in Rwanda (just across the border) and the beginnings of a tourist industry is trying to get under way in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The total population of Wild Mountain Gorillas is about 800. To my knowledge there are no Mountain Gorillas in captivity.

Our experience:

We joined our friend and experienced wildlife guide Jonathan Roussow from Cape Town, South Africa on a two-week expedition through the western remote forests and parks of Uganda, with the primary goal of locating and observing Mountain Gorillas. We allowed three days for this purpose. Our permits allowed us to track two different groups on successive days. Our guides know these gorillas as most of them worked on the original habituation teams that paved the way for this important local economic activity which is critical to protecting forest habitat and the worlds remaining Mountain Gorillas.

We had extraordinary luck on day one and spent a beautiful hour with the Habinyanja group on the edge of a clearing where adult gorillas were eating (they are vegetarians) eating almost exclusively wild celery. The young gorillas were, of course, playing. Fantastic photographic opps! We were in and out of the forest in about 5 hours. Day 2 had us tracking the Rushegura group and trackers took us into a completely different section of the forest. Here we were in a dense canopy and with tracker determination found the troop in a little more than an hour. The group was in a rest period after probably having been feeding all night. We observed up close and personal babies nursing and youth playing in the presence of the silverback that was incredibly heartwarming. So much caring and love among these creatures. We were back to our vehicle, basking in a wildlife encounter high in about 3 ½ hours. Mission accomplished!!

Imagine our surprise and absolute amazement when we woke up the next morning to find that the Rushegura group had traveled for three hours and tracked us!! The rest….you already know.

For more information about the Rushegura Gorilla family group check this link

http://kabiza.com/Rushegura-gorilla-group-Buhoma-Bwindi-Forest.htm

Additional media coverageSee links below
http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/psi-vid/2011/12/30/the-top-5-astounding-animal-videos-of-2011/#add-comment

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/travelnews/2011/12/111228-mountain-gorillas-king-grooming-uganda-tourist-animals/

    33 Responses to “Touched by a Wild Mountain Gorilla – The Real Story”

  1. January 8, 2012 | Reply
    Devina says:

    How very fortunate that you were in the right place at the right time.

    Thank-you so much for sharing your experience for all to enjoy.

    • Many thanks for your kind thoughts. We were happy to share the experience and are planning some additional efforts to take the great interest in this video to benefit the wonderful Mountain Gorillas. Please stay tuned for news on this front.
      Best,

      -John

  2. What an amazing thrill…
    I keep watching this clip….
    I just could not believe your luck….Mr. King you must have a peacefulness about you….. for them, to be drawn to you and not fear you…
    Bravo….
    Keep up the great work…Hopefully, this will help with saving The Mountain Gorillas…. and their Park…!!!
    The look on your face is amazing….as they leave you….!! What a thrill….
    Thank you for sharing….
    Susan Grayson

    • Hi Susan, Many thanks for your kind comments. It was certainly a unique and unforgettable experience. We are taking the great interest in the video to good purpose and have some plans in place to benefit the wonderful Mountain Gorillas. Please stay tuned for further news on this. I think you will be pleased.
      Best,

      -John

  3. January 14, 2012 | Reply
    barry says:

    The first time I watched the video I was transfixed. I thought you were the luckiest/happiest person on earth…and the look on your face told me you thought so too. After watching it countless times, I am still transfixed and am thankful you shared the vid with the rest of us. Everyone I’ve shown it to, or who told me they saw it, has been talking about these animals ever since. I’m glad to read more of the story and see that you’re planning on making this of benefit to the animals who created a special connection with you…and the rest of the world. Well done!

    • Many thanks for these kind thoughts and for spreading the word. We have some interesting positive developments in store so stay tuned. Best wishes -jk

  4. January 16, 2012 | Reply
    Izabelle says:

    I really loved this video but I was wondering why you tried to avoid eyecontact with the silverback? Is it possible for him to get violent if he feels threatened?

    • Hi, Thanks for commenting. Eye contact can be viewed by primates such as Mountain Gorillas as a threatening gesture. I wanted to give the impression of complete submission to encourage calmness among the young gorillas as well as the Silverback. It is possible for the Silverback to get aggressive if he feels his troop is being threatened. Fortunately he did not.

  5. This site many useful for every peoples for view that good location. My family members joy from here! I love this site.

  6. Your place is valueble for me. Thanks!…

  7. Bookmarked your stuff, %BLOGTITILE% at reddit. Regards, Natalya Nossett

  8. Posted your stuff, %BLOGTITILE% at fb. Enjoyed it, so wanted to share, Larae Umfleet

  9. Gibt’s hier irgendwo einen Facebook-Button? Würde gerne teilen =)

  10. Posted your post, The World embraces amazing encounter with Mountain Gorillas | The Common Flat Project on facebook. Enjoyed it, so wanted to share, Alaina Waldrope

  11. The World embraces amazing encounter with Mountain Gorillas | The Common Flat Project – just great!

  12. I am staff at Above Top Secret .com and your video has been posted on our forum. I personally cannot stop watching it!! I have sent it to every person I know!

    http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread788580/pg1#pid13061191

    • Thanks for your very kind comments and we are glad you enjoyed watching the encounter. It was incredible in person as you might expect. Thanks for sharing it.

      Very best,
      -John

  13. Simply beautiful. You are so fortunate to have this captured on video! Truely a magical moment you will never forget! Greetings from Uganda!

  14. Hey, I remember when I spent a year in Uganda and was able to track these beautiful animals weekly as part of my job in Bwindi. The mountain gorillas and the poor tourism in the area at the time which didn’t help anyone from the community made us start our company. Videos are great but you will always take your memories with you wherever you go. Hope you will one day come back to Uganda and on safari. You know there are a lot of other activities just waiting for you :) Ever thought of climbing the Rwenzoris north of Bwindi and Queen Elizabeth National Park? You should try them.

    • Hi,
      Thanks for the note and the suggestions upon returning. You have a beautiful country and I would very much like to explore it further.
      Best,
      -John King

  15. April 28, 2013 | Reply
    Darlene says:

    Thank you for sharing this video. How big was the largest Silverback? He appears to trust that no harm will come to him or his group from humans and that alone is due to all those who have created that sanctuary. As it should be. Thank you!

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comments. The Silverback is the dominant male of the family unit and in this case he is about 480 lbs!

  16. November 1, 2013 | Reply
    JoeGillis says:

    Unbelievable ! One of the greatest things i have ever viewed. if i’m having a bad day I watch this video and faith in the planet is restored. Thanks for sharing.

    Joe

  17. Very cool! Thanks for sharing the video, it brightened my morning! I hope the mountain gorillas will prosper with the help of tourism like this. You might want to make the youtube link to your blog a link that’s directly to this page to make it easier to find.

  18. March 25, 2014 | Reply
    mike ellerbrock says:

    i was fortunate to travel to zaire in 1988 & had a wonderful gorilla viewing experience in the virunga volcanoes–it has never left me–this video, which i just watched 3 times, brought it all back–thank you so much! i believe the congo has been rebuilding their tourism program & i hope they can get it reestablished. thanks again!

  19. October 24, 2014 | Reply
    Deborah Millar says:

    Mr King
    Repeated viewing of your gift to us all thank you…what a rush
    You knew what to do & were so rewarded
    I had a similar experience with a g-bear
    So humbling
    Thank you for trying to care for these magnificent relatives
    It’s on MY bucket list indeed
    Kind Regards & Continued Luck in Your Adventure we call life
    DMillar

    • October 24, 2014 | Reply
      johnking says:

      So glad you checked-in Deborah! The experience was life changing indeed and since the video has been up we have been able to send many thousands of $ and millions of impressions to people around the world. Funds have all gone to African Wildlife Foundation to benefit Mountain Gorilla conservation. Very rewarding outcome from sharing our experience.
      Thanks for your kind thoughts and sharing your own experience.
      Best wishes,
      John King

Leave a Reply