This is a letter we recieved from Rusty Stewart about meeting Titus, the silverback made famous by Dian Fossy in Gorillas in the Mist.
SEPTEMBER 21, 2009
When I was at ORTPN getting my gorilla trekking permits and it was taking a long time I had an opportunity to watch a documentary about Titus, the Silverback who died last week at the age of thirty five. He had a very interesting and tumultuous life which included being orphaned at a young age, dodging poachers successfully for years, surviving the Rwandan Genocide by moving to the very top of Visoke to avoid rebels bent on killing gorillas, surviving the death of Digit, the leader of his group and one of Dian Fossey’s favorites, living in an all male group for several years and finally taking over the group and leading it successfully for years fathering many new babies. He seemed to have a philosophy of life that made him charismatic and in my view very human.
With thoughts of Titus on my mind, I set off for Ruhengeri to start my gorilla trek. The trek starts at 0700 and the excitement in the folks was palpable. Each group has 8 people and our group set out with our guide to find our gorilla group. After a short ride over a very rough road we de-camped. It was a tough 3 hour climb, steadily uphill, through a bamboo forest. I would be lying if I suggested it was easy. As the oldest in my group, I had a porter who helped me and I often needed his help. Then we stopped, left our bags, poles,etc, walked on another hundred feet and there he was… our Silverback, sitting like a Buddha..
We were all mesmerized at how close we were to him.
Our guide was able to speak gorilla which was great so if there was movement he could tell us whether we should be afraid or not. Other gorillas started to arrive and we enjoyed a real show. Three young gorillas and two mature females.
The young were intent on entertaining us, but when they came too close to us the Silverback would give what sounded like a small cough and they would run back up to him.
Too soon, our hour of excitement was over and we hiked back down the mountain.
What a thrilling experience, and certainly worth every penny! I’ve included some of my favorite pictures so you can see how wonderful they are to see in their natural habitat.
I am just finishing Farley Mowat’s book Virunga, The Passion of Dian Fossey (Seal Books McClelland-Bantam, Inc, Toronto) I am in I recommend it to anyone interested in her struggle to protect the Mountain Gorilla from poacher, and the encroachment of the world.
A word about why I’m in Rwanda right now. My husband chose to spend a month here teaching anesthesia, as part of an ongoing project sponsored jointly by the Canadian Society of Anesthesia and the American Society, in the university hospital programs in Kigali and Huye. I have accompanied him and have done some volunteering for Vision Finance International the micro finance arm of the charity World Vision. We have also been accompanied by a young anesthesia resident from the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine. This project has been going on for almost two years now and is being very well received.
Today my two adult children are here and they left in the last hour for Ruhengeri to have their own gorilla adventure. Later all of us will leave Rwanda for Kenya and a Safari.
Thank you Rusty for sharing this story with us. Rest in Peace knowing that you changed the world Titus.