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Silverback

It was late 1994 and I was in Rwanda, which was still reeling from the genocide that struck the country earlier in the year. The Parc National des Volcans was virtually untouristed, but still intact. This is the home of some 400 mountain gorillas out of 700 – 800 left in the world. It was also the base and research center for the primate researcher, Dian Fossey who studied these creatures and where she was murdered.

Along with two journalists, a guide and a guard, we trudged through wet bush and bamboo forests on muddy paths, until we found a group of feeding gorillas. It was one of the most wondrous sights I have ever encountered. I recall the uncanny feeling of connection with these forest dwellers when they looked at you. Their eyes seemed almost human, which indeed they almost are.

An alpha male silverback decided to show who’s boss and put up an aggressive display of chest pounding and finally a mock charge. The guide warned us NOT TO RUN, but to take a submissive position. This is easier said than done when several hundred pounds of animal brawn comes flying at you, but I managed to sit tight after snapping this shaky photo a moment before the charge.

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