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TUESDAY April 5, 2022: 'The Last GORILLAS In The MIST' by award winning, ZUMA Press photo-journalist Vito Finocchiaro: Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is home to the world's largest population of Mountain gorillas in the wild. The Silver backs were made famous by the movie 'Gorillas in the Mist' the true story of anthropologist Dian Fossey who dedicated her life to saving the primates. The animal has come a long way since the 1980s when decades of poaching caused its population to plunge to just 250. In the 2010 census the gorillas numbered 880, in 2015 the count was up to 1,063. Thanks to this revival, the mountain gorilla is now listed as 'endangered,' while other great apes remain 'critically endangered'. With hundreds of mountain gorillas now in residence, the Park is a conservation triumph. But this resurgence is not without consequences, as the majestic creatures now struggle for space to grow and thrive. Recent effects of climate change are worrying conservationists, such as mudslides which affected one of the six natural habitats of the Silver Backs. Humans have moved into areas near mountain gorillas, they have cleared land for agriculture and livestock. The challenge has inspired local people to to devote their lives to protecting the gorillas and since 1996 over 140 rangers have lost their lives in the line of duty helping to save an irreplaceable natural treasure. Welcome to 'The Last GORILLAS In The MIST'
© zReportage.com Story of the Week #833: TUESDAY April 5, 2022: 'The Last GORILLAS In The MIST' by award winning, ZUMA Press photo-journalist Vito Finocchiaro: Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is home to the world's largest population of Mountain gorillas in the wild. The Silver backs were made famous by the movie 'Gorillas in the Mist' the true story of anthropologist Dian Fossey who dedicated her life to saving the primates. The animal has come a long way since the 1980s when decades of poaching caused its population to plunge to just 250. In the 2010 census the gorillas numbered 880, in 2015 the count was up to 1,063. Thanks to this revival, the mountain gorilla is now listed as 'endangered,' while other great apes remain 'critically endangered'. With hundreds of mountain gorillas now in residence, the Park is a conservation triumph. But this resurgence is not without consequences, as the majestic creatures now struggle for space to grow and thrive. Recent effects of climate change are worrying conservationists, such as mudslides which affected one of the six natural habitats of the Silver Backs. Humans have moved into areas near mountain gorillas, they have cleared land for agriculture and livestock. The challenge has inspired local people to to devote their lives to protecting the gorillas and since 1996 over 140 rangers have lost their lives in the line of duty helping to save an irreplaceable natural treasure. Welcome to 'The Last GORILLAS In The MIST'
A wide eyed National Park guide, together with a group of trackers and gorilla locators, looks upwards into the dense forest, his gaze indicates that contact with the primates is imminent.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Press Wire
Morning mist drapes over the rain forests of the Bwindi National Park. Bwindi is one of the richest ecosystems in Africa, located near the Virunga National Park. Due to its rich biodiversity, the park became a UNESCO World Heritage Site where mountain gorillas are protected, and listed as an endangered species. The high humidity level creates a perfect habitat for primates, who do not like to eat dry leaves and bark.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Press Wire
The silver-backed male, can reach a weight of 250 pounds and a stature of 1.70 meters. Each group of primates is organized on a hierarchical scale, where the silverback sits at the top of the pyramid and is responsible for protecting and guiding the rest of the group.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Wire
Driving off-road vehicles on rough tracks past small villages, the park rangers transport tourists inside the forest to meet the Mountain Gorillas.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Press Wire
A female mountain Gorilla makes a face almost like laughter as it plays with its cub. The maternal instinct does not make her lose sight of the little one that it holds tightly under its care. Mountain Gorillas are a very rare endangered species with only 880 remaining specimens in all in this region.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Wire
A park guide looks towards the trees and taps the branches with a piece of wood to see if there are gorillas around. Every day they accompany groups of tourists who want to visit the park and its special primate inhabitants.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Press Wire
Lying on the grass, a female mountain gorilla hugs its cub. Gorillas that come into contact with humans can be vulnerable to human diseases, which gorillas experience in more severe forms.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Wire
Park tracker armed with a machete, which serves to open a path through the thick vegetation of the forest. Every day they follow the traces of the Gorillas and locate their position within the Forest. Tiring work, paid with only a few dollars a month, but for which they risk their lives, they are often victims of ambushes by poachers.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Press Wire
A small young primate plays close to the mother. As their name implies, mountain gorillas live in forests high in the mountains, at elevations of 8,000 to 13,000 feet.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Press Wire
The Rangers and the villagers on the edge of the forest greet each other along the paths that go up to the mountain. The Rangers accompany the thousands of tourists from all over the world who want to observe the primate families of the park. The villagers bring produce green on their land to the market. The tourism industry created in turn by the Mountain Gorillas has changed the life of the entire country in a positive and sustainable way.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Press Wire
Lying on the grass, a female mountain gorilla and proud mother, hugs her cub. The human like gesture of this animal, shows all the tenderness of maternal love and the bond that unites parents and children shines through: emotions, tactile sensations, smells, the warmth of the body.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Wire
A ranger crosses the bed of an almost dry stream, passing over slippery stones through mud and moss. Each day, trackers make sure that the path, the only access for tourists to visit gorillas, is clear and safe. They follow the primates throughout the day, check the various families, contact the guides to communicate their locations in the Park. They also risk their lives to keep poachers away.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Press Wire
A female mountain gorilla appears to smile while hugging its cub. During the coronavirus lockdown, from January to September, there was a boom in births. A total of 7 gorilla calves were born, against only three in the whole of 2019.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Wire
At 7.00am in the morning the porters gather together for a daily briefing at the park entrance. Each of them is given the luggage of one tourist who comes to trek to see the gorillas from a safe distance. This creates socially responsible tourism that represents a way for local communities to live close to the primates while lowering the negative impact.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Press Wire
A female mountain gorilla with a large scar on her nose is lying on the grass. Her beautiful large brown eyes stand out against the black of her fur.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Wire
Blending into he natural environment, a park guide opens a passage through the thick vegetation of the forest. Here the struggle between man and nature is evident, the the paths are quickly overgrown and have to be cut regularly. Many of these men are former poachers and hunters. Often they did not hunt for money but for hunger, and they brought the meat of animals killed in the villages and exchanged it for potatoes and beans. With sustainable tourism, several villages have been built for them on the edge of the forest.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Press Wire
A small gorilla lying on his mother. His childish gaze looks like that of a newborn baby, and that gaze establishes the deep bond with the mother and through which he learns about the surrounding environment.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Press Wire
Porters, the men who carry the backpacks of tourists during the Gorilla Trekking routes, walk along small paths and meet the tourists organized by the rangers to visit the Park. Many of them are former poachers who, thanks to tourism generated by the Mountain Gorillas, abandoned their negative activity and became activists of the movement for the conservation of the gorillas.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Press Wire
An old Silverback male, leaning against a tree, is half hidden by the dense vegetation of the nearby Bwindi rainforest. His name is RAFIKI, one of the oldest and best known Mountain Gorillas and the most accustomed to the presence of man in the Forest. Rafiki was killed by a poacher on June 1, 2020 while the Park was closed due to the coronavirus Lockdown.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Wire
Along a dirt road on the Rwandan hills, a group of women carry sacks on their heads filled with produce they have grown that they are taking to market to sell. They grow cereals, such as millet and sorghum, corn and rice. The unique climate favors the production of a particularly strong and aromatic black tea, a local specialty. The plantations that line the hills at the edge of the forest also serve as a barrier for Gorillas who do not like this type of vegetation and therefore remain in the mountains and far from villages.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Press Wire
A male Silverback, the dominant gorilla of the group sits upright carefully watching the new visitors (tourists). Each group of primates is organized on a hierarchical scale, where the silverback is at the top of the pyramid and is responsible for protecting and guiding the rest of the group.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Press Wire
A vet who specializes in treating gorillas watches a video inside the veterinary practice. Gorilla Doctors take care of the endangered primates, help in the rescue and treatment of orphaned gorillas, they do research on primate diseases.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Press Wire
Along the slope of the mountain, the forest has been cleared and dried wood is burned to make charcoal. A part is used for the needs of the village, the remainder is sold to the market. Charcoal production for heating a cooking is illegal and has destroyed much of the Gorilla habitat.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Press Wire
Young girls braid their hair in the village of a Batwa Pygmy tribe. The children wait for them to finish, they have nothing else to do as there is no school, there are no alternatives. Once the Batwa Pygmies lived in the forest, but since it was transformed into a National Park for the protection of mountain gorillas they have been evicted and confined to small villages along the slope of the mountain. Most of them live in conditions of extreme poverty. Some have benefited from sustainable tourism derived from gorillas.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Press Wire
A pygmy of the Batwa tribe works the land on the edge of the forest. Once the Batwa Pygmies lived in the forest, but since it was transformed into a National Park for the protection of mountain gorillas they have been evicted and confined to small villages on the edge of the cities or along the slope of the mountain. Most of them live in conditions of extreme poverty, some have benefited from sustainable tourism derived from gorillas. The government has donated to some tribes small plots of land to be cultivated.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Press Wire
A child belonging to the Batwa Pygmy tribe inside his very basic mud walled home. Once the Batwa lived in the forest, but since it was transformed into a National Park they have been confined to small villages along the slope of the mountain.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Press Wire
A Gorilla in the thick vegetation of the forest eats bamboo leaves while watching his visitors carefully. The diet of these animals is mainly herbivorous, it includes leaves, shoots, bamboo stalks, nettles, thistles, fruits, roots, tender bark, especially the eucalyptus bark that is very important for their diet and sodium needs.
© Vito Finocchiaro/ZUMA Press Wire
Vito Finocchiaro

Vito Finocchiaro, from Sicily, is an Italian photographer and has worked in Asia and Africa extensively on stories for International news media. He is the recipient of national and international awards. 'For me photography is about communicating, it is the need to tell something, to express a feeling, a thought through images.' Vito is available for assignment with ZUMA Press..:833



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