In 2012, my granddaughter and I went on a gorilla tour in a national park located in southwestern Uganda. We spent an hour in the midst of a group of 14. The experience was truly life altering. The mountain gorilla is a truly impressive animal and we share 98.4% of our DNA with the species.
But there are only 700-800 mountain gorillas left in the wilds, and they are located in the mountains at the intersection of Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo), Uganda, and Rwanda. Not a particularly safe corner of the world. For example, in eastern Congo, various rebel groups have been fighting government, African, and UN troops for the last few years. According to an article Bryan Walsh in Time magazine (11 Nov 2013):
The fighting–along with the constant threat of poachers, disease and loss of habitat from deforestation–has taken its toll on the already critically endangered population of the mountain gorillas in the region. The 300 mountain gorillas that live in Congo are particularly vulnerable; their habitat is occupied by the M23 rebel group, which is carrying out a violent uprising against the Congolese government. Mountain gorillas have been caught in the crossfire of pitched gun battles and have sometimes been attacked directly by rebels seeking to steal and sell infant gorillas.
That the mountain gorillas of Congo endure at all is a testament to the bravery of the Congolese Wildlife Authority, which oversees the sprawling country’s embattled parks and nature reserves. At the Senkwekwe Orphan Mountain Gorilla Center in the Virunga National Park [because of the unrest, the park is currently closed to visitors], rangers care for the animals, many of which have lost their mothers to poachers or rebel fighters. The center offers a refuge for young gorillas that have been traumatized by the ongoing violence.