By Mark McConville
A GROUP of curious Mountain Gorillas have been captured on camera as they tried to discover what this mystery device was.
The cute pictures show some juvenile and female gorillas reaching towards the camera as they came within one and a half feet of the photographer.
Other incredible images show one gorilla in deep thought with his chin resting on his hand, baby gorillas clinging to their mum’s backs and swinging on the low hanging branches.
The wildlife photographs were taken in Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo by French photographer Eric Baccega.
“Gorillas, especially the young ones, are curious and playful,” he said.
“The administration of the National Parks imposes a distance of 23 feet between the visitors and the gorillas. But it is sometimes difficult to respect this because of the dense vegetation and the gorillas moving around.
“Then it sometimes happens that some young impulsive animals who want to play come and touch you.
“To take these images, I decided to go the the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This country is less visited than Rwanda and Uganda so I had a good chance to see the gorillas alone or in a small group.
“Out of six visits, I was able to go twice alone. In the DRC the vegetation is particularly dense. I approached quietly and then let the gorillas come towards me. Some females were curious and tried to touch my camera.
“I also needed a bit of luck to have such close contact with the gorillas. I have made more than 20 visits to the gorillas in 10 years but this was the first time that I had been able to get so near to them.”
The mountain gorillais one of the two subspecies of the eastern gorilla. There are two populations. One is found in the Virunga volcanic mountains of Central Africa, within four National Parks: Mgahinga and Bwindi in south-west Uganda; Volcanoes, in north-west Rwanda; and Virunga in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
It is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN. The other is found in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. As of May 2018 just over 1000 mountain gorillas remain.
“Visits to the Mountain gorillas are strictly regulated and last only an hour in order to avoid disturbance or health issues for the gorillas,” added Eric.
“This is why we wear masks in order to avoid transmitting any germs. The Mountain gorillas are constantly watched by the National Park guards from dawn to dusk and it is it 100% guaranteed to see them.
“It is a very emotional experience. Although organisations work for the protection and conservation of the gorillas, the money from tourism plays an important role in the existence of the National Parks and contributes to the survival of the species.
“Mountain gorillas are used to the presence of humans. The work of the national park guards is to spend lots of time with them in order to be able to take tourists to see them. Generally they don’t react to my camera or my presence because I approach slowly and quietly.
“In the past, silverbacks have reacted aggressively to tourists who have approached too close and too fast. But there have been no consequences, as it is just a threat charge. Gorillas are undoubtedly the most peace-loving animals in the world.”