Friday, 12 September 2008

Unsung heroes

'Bwindi Ranger'

They look up at you from their wrinkled, black leather faces and it's . . . it's . . . well, it's awfully difficult writing about mountain gorillas. Words are unable to convey the emotional impact of the experience. When one first locks onto your gaze with its beautiful, wise, chocolaty-brown eyes your brain explodes. It thwacks you in some ancient corner of your medulla oblongata and comes out as tears. When the gorilla looks away you feel instantly lonely.

As George Schaller famously stated "No one who looks into a gorilla's eyes – intelligent, gentle, vulnerable – can remain unchanged, for the gap between ape and human vanishes, we know that the gorilla still lives within us."

I was one of a group of international artists who contributed some of my work to help raise funds for the International Gorilla Conservation Program It is a cause very, very close to my heart because I was lucky enough to have encountered these wonderful animals on the Ugandan side of the Virunga Mountain Range where the gorillas habituate the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Located at the crest of the mountainous backbone of Africa, at the very centre of the continent, the Virunga Mountain Range is the embodiment of western fantasies about "Darkest Africa." The Virungas are in the heart of the legendary land of King Solomon's mines, the long-sought source of the Nile, and the rumoured lair of giant crocodiles, man-eating plants, and the brothers of King Kong. And here, in this mysterious and exotic place, juxtapositioned along the boarders of the DR Congo and Rwanda, lies Bwindi. This is the place where the 320 mountain gorillas of Uganda reign supreme. As long as we care enough, that is.

But I think it’s important, too, to recognise the work of some exceptional men. The rangers who lead small groups of visitors up from the community base camps to see the mountain gorilla families are truly the unsung heroes of the Virunga range in all three countries. They are exceptionally knowledgeable, unwaveringly dedicated and, above all, so brave to tackle a job like this where the dangers that lie in wait for them are not the animals that live in the rainforests, but human beings loaded with guns and avarice.

Every single one of us, whether we’ve encountered these extraordinary creatures or not, should be honor bound to acknowledge David Attenborough’s message –

“The fate of the creatures which share our planet lies entirely at the hand of mankind - it is within our power to protect them or watch them become extinct. Let us choose the first route.”


soulbrush said...

okay i'm in heaven, love mountain gorillas, belong to the fosse rock!

studio lolo said...

I adore gorillas and also belong to the Fosse Foundation. (Soulbrush's gift to me!)
See a gorilla post I did here...

Your work is deeply rich and stunning.