Party Animals

September 28 (Parc National des Volcans, Rwanda) —

Rwandan gorillas know how to have a good time.  In late September, new bamboo shoots appear in Rwanda’s Parc National des Volcans, where about 400 mountain gorillas live.  And bamboo shoots are a gorilla’s favorite food. Not just because they are tasty, but because they make the gorillas feel somewhat drunk. And drunk gorillas, much like drunk humans, are funny to watch.

Bamboo shoot = beer for gorillas

Our ranger from the day before, Feliciane, made sure we got assigned to trek after a great gorilla group, the Hirwa (“Lucky”) family. The family is considered lucky because the ruling silverback was able to convince a few females to leave with him from the Susa family (which Dian Fossey studied) without any violence and the family has since grown to 16 members due to the birth of twins (very unusual) as well as a number of other babies in the last few years.

The family is also considered lucky because its ruling silverback is smart. While being tracked by Feliciane and some other tourists, the silverback detected a poacher’s snare in the bushes and directed both his family and the humans following them to avoid the snare. He blocked the snare until all the gorillas and humans had safely passed by, grunting a warning the entire time. (The rangers later went back to disassemble the snare but could not at the time because the silverback would not let them near it.) Pretty amazing story. We were stoked to be visiting this family.

With our new Ozzie friends at ranger station

After a short hike, we found the gorillas near the base of Mount Sabyinyo in a bamboo forest.

Mt Sabyinyo, at intersection of three countries


The silverback was not so serious on this visit.

He kept a careful watch over his flock,

but he was pounding back the gorillas beers.

The rest of the family, except for a one month old baby and his mother, were also having a party. Even the twins, at less than 2 years old, were getting in on the action.

The youngsters swung upside down,

fell on the ground when vines gave way,

walked around being cute,

played king of the hill,

Excited winner of King of the Hill

and had an MMA match.


The winner of king of the hill then got a case of the spins and had us laughing so hard that we were falling over too.


After so much fun, the twins decided it was time to nurse

And then wrestle again to annoy their mother.


The youngsters next turned their attention to the humans and started trying to play with us. This one walked right up to me and grabbed my pant leg.

And one of them grabbed a hat and would not let it go.
Some of the adolescent females also grew curious about us, and this one in particular really liked David.

And then, of course, there’s a belligerent drunk in every group. The ranger had to talk (through a serious of grunts) this one into leaving us alone after she grabbed at many of us as she went by and was coming back for more.

Last but not least, here’s your Daily Squee:

One month old