Gorilla Family and Me
First aired on BBC2 21:00 Sunday 27th 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 one aired on BBC2 21:00 Monday 21st December 2015
Concluding this two part series about Grauer’s Gorillas in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Grauer’s Gorillas are also known as Eastern Lowland Gorillas and are closely related to Mountain Gorillas. They have been far less extensively studied than their famous relatives.
There are a few spoilers below so if you haven’t seen the episode you might want to do so, you can see it on iPlayer, that link will only work if you live within the UK.
By now Gordon had been away from Chimanuka and his family for ten weeks. Chimanuka’s rival, Mugaruka, had been encroaching on the family’s territory. His presence is a danger to not only Chimanuka but also the youngest members of the family. Silverbacks that take over a family often kill the youngest so that he can father his own.
So Gordon’s first interest was in locating the youngest, Mwira who is around ten or eleven months old and still being nursed by his mother, Mwinga.
Gordon was also keen to locate the orphan Marhale. His mother died after being attacked by Mugaraka and his care has fallen to his father, Chimanuka
Both are male and when Mwira is older he too will spend a lot of time with Chimanuka who is clearly a skilled parent.
Having identified Mwira during daylight he used night-vision cameras to find Marhale who sleeps on the floor near Chimanuka while the rest of the family sleep in nests in the trees,
Grauer’s Gorillas spend more time in trees than Mountain Gorillas. They also have shorter fur and less pronounced markings on their noses.
There have been decades of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This caused the death of an estimated 200 Gorillas with the loss of five families that had been habituated to Humans. Habituation is where a wild animal is at ease with the presence of Humans.
Habituation is dangerous as it can make poaching easier. Poachers snare and kill adults for food and the young to sell to the pet trade. Young Mwira could sell for £30,000.
As well as the Park Rangers the National Army also patrol the forest. There are not only Poachers but also armed Militia, remnants of combatant forces from decades of conflict. Gordon went on a patrol looking for Human encroachment in to the park.
However Habituation may be the only thing that might make them safe. This is because the park wants to open up more to tourists, The money from Western Tourists paying to view wild Gorillas can fund more guards and bring more wealth to the country. That is why the park were so keen to have Gordon and the team film there.
This year around 2.000 tourists have visited the park. In Rawanda, where the situation has been more stable for longer more than 20,000 tourists visit parks annually bringing £130,000,000.
Gordon joins a group of Rangers who are habituating a new family to Humans. The leader of that family is Mpungwe, his picture is at the top of this article, he is a Silverback who is younger and bigger than Chimanuka . At least three females in this group left Chimanuka to join Mpungwe.
Gorillas can identify individual Humans so they really would notice the difference between the Rangers and tourists. Gordon is likely the first white man they have seen. Mpungwe clearly did not like the new person in the group.
Chimanuka’s family is currently the only habituated family. So Mpungwe’s family, with three females already habituated, are potentially the best placed to double the number.
Gordon tries out an experiment for a scientist with interesting results. I won’t say more on this as it is a bit of fun I’d rather not spoil for anyone who hasn’t had a chance to see the episode.
Mwira reached his first birthday while Gordon was there. Marhale is now four, the ages that youngsters become more independent. Chimanuka is doing a grand job.