|Baby gorillas with 'foster parents' at Iboubikro|
This lowland gorilla protection site on the Bateke plateau some 100 miles north of Brazzaville was set up through the benevolence of British casino mogul John Aspinall to look after baby gorillas whose mothers have been killed by poachers seeking to sell the young in the cities. When they reach full gorilla adolescence at about eight, they are then reintroduced into the wild miles away in the forest. During the civil war about 10 years ago they were evacuated to the coast but then brought back.
|Time for play|
It means an early departure from Brazzaville to get to the youngsters in time for their feeding. At Iboubikro, the babies are cared for in a forest across a river where two attendants act as foster mothers. There are four little ones aged between 2 and 3 1/2; they’re the ones grabbing the bottles of milk to drink, thumping their pectorals like miniature King Kongs, and doing their victory dances.
A few dozen miles away on a forested, river-surrounded peninsula lives Sid, a massive 27-year-old 440-pound silver-back who was first rescued as a tiny baby by a French woman. A truly magnificent creature with a ginger fringe on his high ridged head, he has survived war (he was never sent to the coast) and polio (they get the same diseases as us, and it slightly affected his jaw). It is Sid who takes an instant dislike to my voice.
|Bateke plateau and the blue lake|
|Attendants approach Sid with goodies|
Sid was put on the island with four other males because there are too few females among those rescued, and the project did not want to sexually overload the groups that have been reintroduced to the even remoter forest. This is not as cruel as it might sound, because it is natural for male gorillas in the wild to be alone until they establish their own group. Two of the four were killed early on, apparently by poachers to sell the meat. So that left Rupert, Titi and Sid. Rupert, sensing that Sid was weaker because of the polio, protected him and for a while all three lived in peace. Then one day both Rupert and Titi were found dead. There were no bite marks, so they didn't kill each other, and it’s assumed they were poisoned, but the details remain unknown.
Anthropomorphically, the Frenchman says, the chimpanzees represent the black side of man - they attack, fight and fight to kill; the smaller bonobos, on the other side, represent man's rosier side - they make continual love, not war.
|Some more pondering|
|Becalmed after tantrum|
|Oh, you lot bore me, anyway|
|The view from Sid's living room|