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Conversation with gorillas in an impenetrable forest – 60 minutes

On this week’s 60 Minutes, correspondent Bill Whittaker traveled to the Impenetrable Forest in a remote part of southwestern Uganda. He and his team went with the US virus trackers, which are trying to locate and stop the next virus from wildlife to humans.

Getting to the Impenetrable Forest took about a full day of travel, first from New York to Amsterdam, from Amsterdam to Kigali, Rwanda, and then from Kigali to Entebbe, Uganda. They then flew in a small commuter plane from Entebbe to Kahihi before driving another hour from Bwindi.

“And you finally get to Bwindi, and Bwindi was like a garden,” Whittaker said. “And it’s just lush greenery with flowers blooming everywhere. It was really beautiful.”

The impenetrable forest is, as it sounds, thick and dense with vines and giant ferns, firs and hardwoods. In some places, the sun could not shine through the dense thickets.

Some of the American doctors that the 60 Minutes team was with are from an organization called Gorilla Doctors. When they first started tracking the gorillas of the Impenetrable Forest in the 1980s, there were about 250 mountain gorillas. Today there are 459 and the gorilla population is growing.

The 60 Minutes team was also with the park rangers who monitor the forest gorilla families. Park ranger Wilbur Tumwesigye was able to summon the gorilla family to Whitaker and the crew, contacting the gorillas to assure them the group was safe.

Tumwesigye told Whitaker that people have identified 14 different sounds that mountain gorillas make. He has mastered many of these sounds, including the sound made by silverfinches when they tell their group, “It’s time to go.”

Whitaker recalled the experience of watching gorillas up close.

“They were eating and grooming, and the mothers were breastfeeding the babies,” Whittaker said. “The children were playing. Teenagers were bustling about. And the big silver man just sat there, watching everything. And they were right in front of us. It was magical.”

The video above was made by Will Croxon and Britt McCandless Farmer. It was edited by Will Croxton.


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