Uganda Travel News

habituation process was only ten weeks along. Or that eight visitors was more than we wanted to take out at one time. These were influential people. Important people, as the porters could tell when they finally showed up with several loads to carry into the forest, including one cooler filled with beer. Matters quickly took a turn for the worse when a light rain began to fall, revealing that several of the Germans had failed to bring rain gear to the rain forest. Then, when the gorillas’ trail became muddled in a thick stand of bamboo, Bill asked the tour agents to stay together while he and the guide sorted out the situation. The first beers were opened while they waited and soon the forest rang with the loud call of one especially obnoxious agent: Go-
rilla! Gorilla! Komm her, Gorilla!

Bill’s spirits crashed. He had promised tourists, but were these agents a preview of the nightmare to come? The group eventually did see the gorillas, but Bill was left with new: doubts about tourism. And Amy was ten thousand miles away, unable to share his misgivings or restore his hopes.

THE GORILLAS OF GROUP 11 were a calming influence. They revealed more of themselves and their characters as time passed. In deference to Craig Sholley, we continued to call the silverback Stilgar. The other gorillas were all given African names in either Kinyarwanda or Swahili which, in turn, reflected each individual’s personality, behavior, or personal attributes.
Some were quite pedestrian, like Ndume-meaning “male”-for the emerging second silverback. One adult female was called Mkono, or “the hand,” in reference to the mangled fingers that rendered her left hand nearly useless. She was almost certainly a trap victim, as was a younger female named Kosa for her completely “missing” hand. Kalele earned her name with constant
“noisy” vocalizations. And when it became clear what agitated this young mother, her baby was named Sababu, or “the reason.” The oldest youngster, who loved to play, was called Furaha, or “joy,” while his best “friend” and playmate was named Nshuti. The last of the young gorillas to be identified was named with the ‘number Tano to mark her place as “fifth” in line. The
guides named most of the gorillas and took pride in their responsibility to confer appropriate African names.

Interactions with the members of Group 11 were becoming more interesting and complex. On one occasion, two young French women accompanied Bill and Nemeye. The gorillas on that day were secluded at the bottom of a shallow crater, so Bill decided to wait above until they emerged in better view. A fallen Hagenia trunk provided an excellent vantage point from which to observe individuals as they appeared in the crater’s grassy clearing. Stilgar

was nowhere to be seen, but the other gorillas appeared calm. Then, as Bill and the two women were leaning on the log watching the scene below, two immense black hands rose up and slapped the trunk right in front of them. Stilgar pulled himself up to peer over the log, his huge head a few feet from their faces. Bill gave Out an involuntary cough grunt-a somewhat aggressive vocalization-which Srilgar fortunately ignored. Instead, he calmly surveyed the human apes before him for a very long minute. Apparently satisfied with his reconnaissance mission, the silverback lowered his powerful frame and retreated as silently as he had appeared. Bill looked around to find both women on the ground. One was in tears. The other was grinning in full ap-
preciation of the moment.

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