Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Golden Monkeys

Those volcanos in the prior post are in Volcanos National Park.

In Rwanda.

And among the beasts that live on them are mountain gorillas.

But that is a topic for another post.

This post will feature a different primate, the Golden Monkey.

The photo above shows how we mostly saw them, up in the bamboo, munching away.

The visits to the monkeys are controlled by the park authorities. There are two troops which have been habituated to human visits. Groups of eight visitors lead by a park ranger can visit the troop for one hour. There is only one visit per troop per day. Doing the math that means on sixteen visitors per day. So you need to reserve your place and get your permits well in advance. Fortunately, our tour company, Wildside Nature Tours, did just that.

The adventure begins at the park, where we are entertained by a group of native dancers.

Then after a introductory review of the park, the monkeys, their habitat, and the rules of engagement, its a short drive to the trailhead.

The trail starts in a village and winds through farms fields towards the park. The monkeys can be anywhere in the park. Thus the hiking time to them is unknown. Fortunately there are spotters in the forest, tracking the monkeys, so our ranger guide knows where to take us.

And before we even get to the park we come upon this fellow. All alone in a potato field. This would be a good omen.

Munching on potatoes. The farmers do not chase or harass the monkeys, as they are protected park animals. It also helps that the farmers are reimbursed for the loss of crops to the monkeys.

We continued on to the park. There are two things to notice in the image below.

One is the stone wall. While this helps to restrict access to the park to specific points of entry, the wall is easily climbed over. But as the fees for visits to the park are funneled back into the local community, there is strong incentive to protect the park and its inhabitants. Children are taught in school to respect the park and its animals. And thus the wall isn't really to keep humans out.

The second thing to notice is the gun.

Perhaps it is protect us from this guy?

Naw, he's just yawning.

No the gun, and the wall, are for the same animals. Elephants and cape buffalo. The wall to keep these large forest denizens from wandering into the farm fields and villages. The gun to protect us should one of these beasts take exception to our presence in "their" forest. Alas, we were not to encounter any animals other than the monkeys in the forest.

The main reason for this is that we did not go very far into the forest. The monkeys, as perhaps foretold by the lone male we encountered on the hike through the fields, were just on the other side of the park wall.

There was a large group of monkeys all around us, albeit up in the trees and difficult to see.

All too soon our hour was up. It was time to go.

It seems the monkeys were not quite ready to say goodbye.

Or maybe they just wanted some potatoes.

In either case they followed us out of the park. And we got more monkey time.

Whereas we can only spend an hour with the monkeys, they are under no such constraint when it comes to spending their time with humans.

And so we got very nice looks of the troop, out in the open, in bright sunlight.

A wonderful way to end a magical encounter with these sadly endangered creatures.

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