Mountain Gorillas: Stand Your Ground

You’re walking through the forests of Rwanda, when suddenly a 400-pound male Mountain Gorilla charges right at you. What do you do? Stay tuned. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

Amy Vedder is director of Africa programs for the Wildlife Conservation Society. She’s been working with Mountain Gorillas in Africa since 1978, and has often helped to habituate people to gorillas and vice versa.

“When gorillas are first approached, they’re genuinely afraid of a potential threat. Whether that’s a person, or a leopard, or an elephant. With people, if they’re not used to people, the normal reaction is immediately to flee. If a person pursues the gorillas then the next reaction is for the male, the adult male, this 450-pound being to turn around and charge at you, beating his chest, screaming, ripping out small trees and slapping them down in front of you. And they will run at you and come within a yard away before they will stop. This is what turns out to be a bluff charge. So in those kinds of circumstances which I experienced when I was helping to, what we say, ‘habituate’ a group for research or for tourism. In those situations when your heart is pounding like crazy and you have to trust that this animal is actually going to stop. And they do. They’re, they’re massive, they’re powerful. And yet in most of their daily life they are very gentle and allow people to enter their world, on their terms, which I find amazing.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Mountain Gorillas: Stand Your Ground

There’s a 400-pound gorilla growling at you and ripping up small trees from the ground. He looks like he’s about to charge; is he bluffing?
Air Date:05/11/1998
Scientist:
Transcript:

You're walking through the forests of Rwanda, when suddenly a 400-pound male Mountain Gorilla charges right at you. What do you do? Stay tuned. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

Amy Vedder is director of Africa programs for the Wildlife Conservation Society. She's been working with Mountain Gorillas in Africa since 1978, and has often helped to habituate people to gorillas and vice versa.

"When gorillas are first approached, they're genuinely afraid of a potential threat. Whether that's a person, or a leopard, or an elephant. With people, if they're not used to people, the normal reaction is immediately to flee. If a person pursues the gorillas then the next reaction is for the male, the adult male, this 450-pound being to turn around and charge at you, beating his chest, screaming, ripping out small trees and slapping them down in front of you. And they will run at you and come within a yard away before they will stop. This is what turns out to be a bluff charge. So in those kinds of circumstances which I experienced when I was helping to, what we say, 'habituate' a group for research or for tourism. In those situations when your heart is pounding like crazy and you have to trust that this animal is actually going to stop. And they do. They're, they're massive, they're powerful. And yet in most of their daily life they are very gentle and allow people to enter their world, on their terms, which I find amazing."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.