What to do when a gorilla charges at you

What to do when a gorilla charges at you is one of the aspects many travellers anticipating gorilla trekking safaris look at. Gorillas are the largest primates in the world and are not found just anywhere in the world. Mountain gorillas, in particular, can only be found in four destinations namely the Virunga Massif Area that encompasses Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, as well as Bwindi Impenetrable National Park that hosts more than half the total world population of mountain gorillas. Mountain gorillas are an endangered species, recently removed from the critically endangered species list. 

What to do when a gorilla charges at you
Mountain gorillas though large primates are a very gentle, calm and with quite a character just like humans with whom they share up to 98% of DNA. Mountain gorillas live in groups or families usually consisting of at most 30 gorilla individuals. Each gorilla family is headed by a dominant silverback in charge of the protection and wellbeing of all members of his family. It is the silverback of the family that defends the family any harm and protects them with even his own life when faced with insecurity from other wild animals and humans as well- yes, humans do poach mountain gorillas and gorillas in general for meat and also as pets in their private zoos. 

With the giant yet gentle demeanour of mountain gorillas, and for the fact that they are a rare and endangered species, many travellers do wish and indeed travel miles to visit gorillas in a gorilla trekking activity. Gorilla trekking involves travellers hiking deep into the jungles of the gorilla destinations in search of the gorillas, and upon encountering them are allowed only one hour with them. Given that gorillas are just like humans and therefore have feelings for different situations that they may feel or get in, including fear of the unknown and also bad moods. When gorillas sense danger, a threat or are in a bad mood, they react by making loud grants, hoot, buoy, stands on two hind legs while thumping the chest and when the threat or danger does persist they begin to grab at anything and tarring them down. This is what is referred to as charging by a gorilla. 

 Gorillas charge for various reasons apart from the afore mentioned. Other reasons as to why gorillas charge include noise from travellers, sudden and uncoordinated movements which they can misinterpret as a language to them, and also direct eye contact with the gorillas which they take as a threat. Touching or even getting close with the infant gorillas also has them charging especially the mother and silverback gorillas for they are very protective.

What therefore should one do when a gorilla charges. Below are some of the solutions or ideas to consider if you are wondering on what to do when a gorilla charges at you;

  • Follow your guide’s instructions. At the start of every gorilla trekking adventure, travellers are briefed about the dos and don’ts during gorilla trekking and once when you have encountered the gorillas. Park rangers who are your guides during gorilla trekking are a very knowledgeable lot in regards to gorillas, their behaviours and their way of life. Following their instructions at all times is therefore advised. When a gorilla charges at you, do whatever it is that your guide instructs you to do, they know more than you do.
  • Crouch down. When a gorilla charges at you, crouch down whilst staying calm, quiet, respectful and in an unthreatening manner. Lower yourself to the grown slowly for you to seam smaller than the charged gorilla. Crouching down shows that you are not a threat or a challenger and therefore has the gorillas retreating and leaving you alone. 
  • Walk away steadily, don’t run. When a gorilla charges at you, you are advised not to run away no matter how scared you might be, for a charged gorilla can run after you and the consequences very ugly. You are instead advised to slowly back away to give a distance between you. Do not make sudden and uncoordinated movements when backing away.
  • Fall on the ground. You can also fall onto the ground to show that you have been defeated already. Also look disinterested by pretending to do your own things say looking down, looking at the trees and the like.
  • Show your teeth and shout back at the gorilla. When a gorilla charges at you with no chance of getting away from it, bare your teeth at them and shout as loud as you can, while thumping your chest. This scares them away for they shall perceive you as another gorilla.
  • Pretend to be a fellow ape. If you have done all the possible tactics to keep you from harm when a gorilla charges at you, be brave and do behave just like another gorilla or primate. You can start pluck leaves, break vegetation and chew at them, nap at the ground to show that you are not a challenger or hostile at all.
  • Do not look directly into the eyes of the gorillas. Gorillas are naturally shy primates that when you stare at them they tend to misinterpret it as a threat and a challenge and thus charge at you. 
  • Keep a distance at all times. A distance of at least 7 meters is advised to be between travellers and gorillas. Keep this in mind while gorilla trekking and be guaranteed of safety. Do not also think or be tempted to touch them.

Travellers should however not be scared of gorillas that they may attack them. In all history of gorilla trekking, there have been very few isolated cases of gorillas charging and attacking visors. Gorillas that travellers visit are fully habituated to accommodate human interaction. Travellers are simply advised to follow the gorilla trekking rules and regulations at all times, to the dot and nothing would possibly go wrong. 

Gorilla trekking safaris are one of the most sought after safaris nowadays by travellers world over. Most travellers include gorilla trekking safaris as the climax of their Africa safaris. Booking a gorilla safari should be done in advance, through a reputable tour operator who would share with you the Dos and Don’ts of gorilla trekking to answer your queries of what to do when a gorilla charges at you, if it did cross your mind that is.

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