Uganda Travel News

much more than their lowland cousins. Their long black hair rounds off the edges of an angular jaws, bony brows, and sharp crests; it softens their otherwise powerful frames. Their faces and foreheads are also less slopes than those of their almost equally long haired cousins, the Grauer’s gorillas of the eastern Congo. Then there are the eyes, the deep brown reflecting pools which we sometimes see ourselves. Finally, there is the dignity with which they carry themselves and which gives them a certain aura

quince, with her perfectly proportioned body, shiny black hair, and dazzling eyes, was perhaps the most beautiful mountain gorilla we ever encountered. Nearly eight years old, she was a female entering maturity. While still a willing playmate for Ziz, tuck or Puck, she might soon become the mate of Beethoven or Icarus. More likely she would leave to join another family. Her life in late 1978 was full of all possibilities for a gorilla of that time and place, and she seemed to carry herself accordingly

Yet in October Quince began to slow down. It was a time when many of the gorillas had been sick with cough that indicated bronchia problems due to especially cold and wet conditions. But Quince had no cough or runny nose. At first there were few signs beyond a tendency to stay at rest a bit longer. Then her head began to hang as she walked and her stops became more frequent. The other gorillas altered their movements accordingly. Distances covered each day dropped dramatically, while the number and the duration of rest periods increased. Food resources in the lower saddle, just above the bamboo zone, seemed ample for even an extended stay. But Quince’s appetite declined too.

Within a week she had visibly worsened. She was spending at least half of each day I a series of poorly made day nests, staring down when she was not sleeping. Dian had no advice or available means of intervention vigil. By the end of the second week, Quince was barely moving. Untold pain had dimmed her once lustrous eyes to a dull regard of surroundings that seemed to hold little interest. The other gorillas had not lost interest in her, however, and were now feeding in shortened loops that took them out to untouched food patches, then back to Quince. They continues to make new nests each night, often within one hundred yards of their previous night’s site. Unlike the others, who constructed sturdy bowls of interlaced plants and branches that provided insulation from the cold damp forest floor, Quince could summon only enough energy to tuck a few unconnected branches beneath her

Amy found Quince in such a nest in the early morning of October 20, lying on her stomach with her face buried in her arms, she might have been blocking out the pain. But she did not stir and the last warmth was fading from her body when Amy moved close to touch her. The other gorillas seemed to acknowledge her death and had already moved away. Amy hurried back up to camp to tell Dian, then returned to Group 5 with the Rwandan camp staff who would carry Quince’s body away. Some tissue samples were removed for later analysis before she was buried alongside Digit and a growing list of others behind Dian’s cabin. We never heard any results from the test that might have been done, and to this day the cause of death remains a mystery

The loss of another gorilla was hard to accept, especially for Amy, who had watched helplessly as the process unfolded in seemingly slow motion. But whereas humans were responsible for every step of Mweza’s suffering and gorillas death in a gorilla’s world, surrounded by her own kind. It was an all too rare for that time in the Virunga

The day of Quince’s death, Group 5 set off on a long trek reaching north along the park boundary. Before Amy caught up to them the next morning, they made a 180 degree turn and headed rapidly in a direct line toward where they hard last seen Quince. Army quickened her pace and caught up along their flank, just in time to be rewarded with an exceptional sight

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