Gorilla gives birth to twins in Volcanoes National Park
It’s extremely rare for mountain gorillas to give birth to living twins – the last time it occurred in Rwanda was in 2004 - so when I heard last week that this had just happened within the Hirwa group of gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, I decided to try to get a look at them.
We’d been climbing steadily through bamboo forest on Mt Sabyinyo for about an hour when the gorillas came tumbling down the hill to greet us. This is the only way I can describe our meeting. They were curious and playful. The Hirwa group comprises fifteen individuals, with several playful young ones and a few adorable babies among them. We had an hour with them and I can only describe it as an interaction, rather than a viewing. We were moving the whole time, mainly down the slopes, as they cavorted in front of us, behind us, above us.
But where were the twins? Suddenly, we caught the swiftest glimpse of a mother holding two tiny babies to her breast, one in each arm. They had gorgeous twinkly eyes. And then she was gone. Our guide told us that the mothers are extremely protective and hide away during the first few days after giving birth.
It was a brief encounter, too fast to take a photo, but the image remains in my memory. In fact, it’s not easy taking gorilla photos. They are jet black in a dark forest and flash is not permitted. All too often the pictures look like black lumps – more like bears than gorillas. But here are a couple of my better shots.