What to do when a gorilla charges! Mountain gorillas are undeniably the most visited primates in East Africa as they very entertaining, enlightening, and rewarding for a lifetime experience. They move in groups or families and each family is headed by a silverback gorilla who is responsible for the welfare of the members. Thousands of tourists travel near and far to Uganda, Rwanda and Congo to experience these lively creatures. Mountain gorillas are defined as partly human because they carry a 98% human DNA with similar features as of human beings hence there are rules and regulations to be followed when they are visited, these rules are provided while on a briefing before starting the gorilla trekking experience. Although these creatures are peaceful, gentle and noble, the fact remains that they are wild animals that is why there is a habituation process that is to familiarise the gorillas to humans.
Whenever gorillas get suspicious of any threat or danger around them or even feel insecure in the presence of tourists, they get wild and react by making loud grunts and hoots. If the threat carries on, they buoy themselves on the feet while pounding their chests, at this point, the gorilla has charged and below are some of the things to do when the mountain gorilla charges on you.
- Follow your guide’s instructions: This is the most important thing to do. It is a must requirement for tourists to go along with at least 2 armed ranger guides on a gorilla trekking experience. These rangers are responsible for giving you rules and regulations that you must follow when trekking to avoid getting to a point when the gorillas charge on you. The rangers are fully informed of the behaviour of each gorilla family hence the need to adhere to the guidelines provided. Some of these rules include; do not shout, do not eat and dump wastes in the forest, do not use a flash camera or phone in the presence of the gorillas, stay away from the gorillas to mention a few. As long as the rules are followed, you will enjoy your visit to the gorillas with great memories.
- Crouch down; To crouch down is basically when to bend your knees down with the upper body is brought forward and down, do this while very calm and quite. By doing this, you let the gorilla know that you are not a threat or a challenger on a flight hence it will find no reason to attack you.
- Study the behaviour of the gorilla; Sometimes the gorillas may tend to be very loud and pound their feet as a way of teasing. They can get curious and will come to you and either grab you or tug your clothes. In this kind of situation, you are advised to remain calm and quiet and avoid making unnecessary movements.
- Do not react; when a gorilla charges on you, you are advised to stay calm, stay in one position; do not scream with this, the gorilla will not feel threatened by your actions. Even when it may look harmful to you and maybe grabs your clothes or pulls you, do not react back, stay calm because reacting back to its behaviour will mean threating and will keep fighting back severally.
- Walk away steadily; Trekkers are advised that when a gorilla charges, they should split and walk away backwards without causing noise. Most importantly, visitors are discouraged from running away from a charged gorilla but rather slowly step backwards and get off the scene. Running away may simply increase the anger of the gorilla. Trekkers are also reminded that not to try to confront the gorillas as humans are not in any position to physically defeat the gorillas, especially in their own territory.
- Become an ape yourself; in a situation where the gorilla has charged and walking unto you, instead of screaming or shouting, simply act and behave like one of them. Go wild and act like an ape in the jungle, break and chew some of the vegetation, beat your chest and sound like an ape, nap on the ground to show that you are not a threat and aggressive in any possible way. In cases where the gorilla charged while very close with no charges of moving back, you are advised to show your teeth, scream and shout so loud while thumbing your chest. This is a very tricky situation however your teeth will tell the gorilla that you are another will ape in the jungle since they are naturally calm. By pretending, the gorilla will simply look on and possibly calm down and move away.
- Be submissive and be passive until it loses interest; while trekking, try as much as possible not to look directly into the eyes of the gorillas, as it looks challenging and threatening to them. When a gorilla comes close to touch, do not resist or try to remove its hand from you because physically a gorilla is a stronger than a human being and also by doing so, it may cause problems with the gorillas.
In conclusion, when trekking mountain gorillas, you are advised to put into serious consideration of the guidelines provided by the rangers to prevent misbehaviour of the endangered species. You are advised to stand 7 meters distance away from the gorillas and also do not take flash photos, do not look directly into their eyes. When every detail of rules is followed, there are no chances that the gorilla will charge hence providing a memorable gorilla experience of a lifetime.