Mountain Gorillas: The Rules of Engagement

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This post courtesy BBC Earth and the Deadly 60 Team. For more wildlife news, find BBC Earth on Facebook and Posterous.

Mountain gorillas are endangered, with only 786 of them left in the world. Visiting them can be an incredible experience, as Steve Backshall discovered when he travelled to the forests of Uganda.

Gorillas are one of our closest relatives. They may be powerful, but they are also intelligent and shy. If—like Steve—you visit mountain gorillas, respect is key. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Small groups: Gorillas are social primates living in complex groups. Only a few people at a time can visit them for short periods. Large groups of people would cause too much of a disturbance and risk stressing the animals.
  • Stay quiet: You’ll also need to keep your voices low. Gorillas use vocalisations to communicate; loud noise and chatting might confuse the animals or make them anxious.
  • Gorillas and humans share 98 percent of their genes: This means they may be vulnerable to the same diseases as we are. If you’re feeling ill or have a cold you’ll risk passing on your infection.
  • Keep clean: To reduce contamination and spreading disease, the team also washed their hands before seeing the gorillas and weren’t allowed to smoke, drink or eat.
  • Keep your distance: It’s never a good idea to approach or touch a large wild animal. A gorilla might see this as a threat.
  • Listen to the guides: Our crew had a team of experienced guides with them at all times; they understand the gorilla’s behavior and can advise you how to act around them.

For more great tips and moving moments, check out the Deadly Diaries, direct from Steve and the Deadly 60 Team.

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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