Hello members! I hope this finds you well, l am called Emmanuel Harerimana, the Gorilla Highlands Expert from Volcanoes National Park! My job is the one of a park guide and I have the honour of visiting mountain gorillas about three times each week. To keep Rwanda’s most valuable animal safe in the pandemic, I have to stay away from my family for 15 days and just do my work.
I am missing my family and friends but I am grateful that our government cares about the gorillas and facilitates my isolation. And, don’t worry, I do have friends here – the gorillas and my workmates who make it all enjoyable! After my rotation finishes, I can go home to Musanze for two weeks and then the cycle continues.
We do get clients, despite Covid. They of course need to test negative (they do tracking within 72 hours from their test day) and we disinfect their shoes before they enter the park. The number of tourists per gorilla group is additionally reduced from 8 to 6. The rest is standard fare: they certainly have to wear good masks, wash hands on arrival with temperature screening and, no surprise, social distancing is mandatory.
Today I was with a South African couple and we had a nice walk towards Mt Sabyinyo, through the bamboo vegetation and through the mud for an hour and a half. We found the Agashya family easily because each of the 20 habituated groups is followed every day by a group of trackers.
Let me tell you about them first: trackers can be in charge of following gorillas or of anti-poaching (that means that they search for snares, illegal tree cutting and such problems). In the pandemic it takes them a month to see their families; they camp near the border of the park each night while on duty.
… And now back to our Agashya gorillas! We were lucky to find them pretty much in the open, and to see interesting activities (sometimes they simply sleep, what is a different experience as you might imagine). One of my favourite gorillas, Imboni, made my day by playing happily with his brother Ingabo. It was a game that helps youngsters gain stamina.
You can see some moments in the photos I took this very morning …
Stay safe, friends!