I spent a thrilling hour with a family of mountain gorillas in the Parc National des Volcans in Rwanda. Exuberant bright eyed youngsters roughhousing around the placid adults, while in the corner, half under a bush, a huge silver back gorilla lay on his tummy, cradling his tiny newborn in one hand while grooming it tenderly with the other.

Mum sat upright looking on with pride and maybe slight concern?  I was so overcome by the privilege of seeing these magnificent creatures so close that I wanted to investigate the environmental protection. Rwanda is awash with high profile conservation projects, but I was interested in a small British charity called ICGP.  They are building a stone wall 2m high and 1.5m feet wide all around the Parc des Volcans to keep out crop-raiding buffalo. The beekeepers that once placed their hives in the forest trees are now under the wing of ICGP and use the wall instead.  Other than the National Parks, the entire country is cultivated and occupied.

Mountain Gorillas

We drove through banana plantations swarming with waving, smiling children and colourfully dressed men and women who carried everything on their heads; bags of food, material, sewing machines, bunches of bananas, pots and pans and farming tools. The beekeeping project uses a section of wall near a village. Hundreds of cigar shaped beehives lie side-by-side on top of the wall disappearing into the misty distance. Made of bamboo and twigs they resemble rolled carpets with holes for the passage of bees at one end, and to retrieve the honey, a cow dung and mud lid opened with string, at the other end. This delicious honey is processed in spotless workrooms behind a smart new roadside shop and sold in clear plastic jars with a great gorilla label.  Of course we stopped for a massive stock up on our way through to Uganda!

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