Thursday, June 24th, 2010
28 students, 9 teachers, and the Director of Mugunga School loaded into two mini-buses today for a trip to see two mountain gorillas at the Rumangabo Park Ranger Station. For everyone on the trip, this was their first opportunity to see gorillas in person. In fact, many of the kids had never ridden in a car before and, unfortunately, we had to make a stop to pick up some plastic bags for car sickness. We also encountered a flat tire on one van and a carburetor issue on the other that caused the bus to die every 10 miles or so, but eventually we made it.
6 students at a time walked down a trail through the forest to view Ndezi and Ndakasi, two orphan gorillas who gained international fame when featured in National Geographic after their family was two and a half years ago. It is still unclear who killed their parents and why, but fortunately Ndezi and Ndakasi are doing well and will eventually be released back into the wild.
The primary reason tourists visit Eastern DR Congo is to see mountain gorillas, especially since there is no wait to get a permit, while in Rwanda and Uganda the wait can be several months. Yet despite living just miles from these rare and astonishing creatures, most Congolese will never have a chance to see them. In fact, it is likely that more foreigners have the opportunity to visit them than Congolese (if you exclude the park rangers). It was wonderful that the students had an opportunity to see them in real life and it served as a great inspiration for the kids' stories.
Special thanks to Papy Shamavu from Wildlife Conservation Society who helped organize the trip and the staff of Virunga National Park for allowing our class to be the first group of students to visit Ndezi and Ndakasi. To learn more about them, visit: http://gorillacd.org/