Gorilla Family and Me – Episode One

MarhaleGorilla Family and Me
First aired on BBC2 21:00 21st December 2015

Presented by Gordon Buchanan
Filmed & Directed by David Johnson

Producer David Johnson
Assistant Producer Patrick Evans
Executive Producer Ted Oakes
Commissioning Editor for BBC Lucinda Axelsson

Episode two aired on BBC2 21:00 Sunday 27th December 2015.

I first heard of Gordon Buchanan as a Wildlife Cameraman. In 2011 I saw his three part series A Bear Family and Me that saw him filming closely with American Black Bears. That series will be repeated on BBC2 on Monday to Wednesday  28th to 30th December 2015.

I wasn’t writing this Blog in those days. However I have reviewed the subsequent series A Polar Bear Family and Me and Snow Wolf Family and Me.

Line-upThe full set of series are being shown so you can easily catch up.

My reviews include links to the shows on iPlayer but some links won’t work at present, I’ll update then once the shows have been repeated.

I don’think these links won’t work outside the United Kingdom.

This series shows Gordon getting as close as her can to a family of Grauer’s Gorillas, also known as eastern Lowland Gorillas. These gorillas live in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park at their invitation, in the hope of increasing tourism.

If you haven’t seen it I suggest you watch before you read the review – it is available on iPlayer. Though there are no major Spoilers in my review though. All images are from the BBC Website and are used with assumed fair use for review purposes only.

ChimanukaThis episode focuses on the family of Chimanuka. He is around 30 years old and has a large family with 25 individuals. Dominant males are known as Silverbacks

MugarukaHis brother Mugaruka is a rival, a lone Silverback.

At times Mugaruka will challenge Chimanuka. These rivalries are very serious and threaten the lives of those caught between the two Silverbacks.

In a previous encounter one of the females in the family was killed by Mugaruka, leaving her baby, Marhale, motherless. In most cases a baby animal without a mother is considered an orphan as in most species the male does not rear the young.

Graur Gorilla females are not known to adopt the baby of dead mothers. However Marhale survived as Chimanuka stepped in. That’s the young orphan at the top of this article. You may notice his fur is browner than most Gorillas, that is thought to be in part due to early weaning because of his mother’s death; perhaps also caused in part by the stress caused by this. Chimpanzees in Tai Forest in Ivory Coast have even been observed adopting unrelated orphans.

This is the only recorded case of a Gorilla father taking responsibility for an orphan. I have heard other examples in other species. For example the Mountain Gorilla Titus adopted his son Ihumure when his mother abandoned the group to join a different Silverback. Sadly Ihumure died soon after Titus. These were members of the Mountain Gorilla family studied by Diane Fossey. Mountain Gorillas are closely related to Grauer Gorillas.

Mountain Gorillas have been studied in much more detail and if you’ve seen many Gorillas on TV chances are most were Mountain Gorillas. So you may here some things in this program that are said to be new information and think ‘I’ve heard that before’, you’ll have heard it about Mountain Gorillas. We can’t simply assume related species act the same – we certainly know that different Human communities act differently and we are one species.

In this episode you will hear why Gorillas have large bulging bellies even when healthy, among other physical attributes. Eating habits and sleeping arrangements are observed. And a subject many Humans often misunderstand about these animals – why females stay with dominant males.

You may have noticed in the picture above that Mugaruka has a missing hand this was lost when he was young, snared by poachers. Poaching has been a very big problem in the area due to decades of war. Thankfully at the moment hostilities have ended.

This is why this sort of TV program is so important. Humans need to accept the damage we have done to the world. By giving these animals this level of attention helps to educate. That is why a team of professionals will use anthropomorphic and emotive language.

After the related series A Polar Bear Family and me was aired some viewers criticised how close Gordon got to the cubs. The viewers were concerned that he could transmit disease. I spoke to Series Producer, Ted Oakes, about that and he stated that there are no major communicable diseases between Humans and Polar Bears (apart from ones Gordon knew he didn’t have of course). MasksAt that time he pointed out that this isn’t the case with Great Apes. This series makes it clear that precautions are essential, we can transmit almost everything to a Gorilla – we are that closely related. You can learn more about this on the BBC site.





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