This is a picture of Poppy, the aging, lone survivor of Dian Fossey's original gorillas circa 2005. Here she is, gray haired and wrinkled, staring right into the camera with her golden brown eyes. How many victories and tragedies have those eyes seen over that 30+ years? Poppy is a member of the Susa Family.
Susa Group/Family—the largest group with 41 gorillas named for the Susa River within their home range. The group is very impressive with three silver-backs and several-black backs, females and several youngsters. Part of the fame of this group are playful twins, named by first lady, Laura Bush and the first lady of Rwanda. Circa 2005, these are the only known surviving set of twins amongst the mountain gorillas. The Susa group roams the slopes of 14000 foot Karisimbi Volcano and is reputed to be the most difficult to trek as it requires a tough hike up the mountain.
This picture was taken in Volcano National Park. The Volcano National Park borders both Virunga National Park in the Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. Typically when we think of mountain elevations of 8,000 -12,000 feet we think of the ski resorts of Utah or Colorado. Picture those same mountains hot and humid, covered with dense vegetation and vine so thick that often a machete must be used at times to hack the way through. Oh yea, no ski lift to carry the city folks and their equipment to the top. That picture is Rwanda's Park Of The Volcanoes. One 'treks' says a tour operator: An exhilarating trek through the cultivated foothills..... Situated in the far northwest of Rwanda, the Volcano National Park protects the steep slopes of this magnificent mountain range - home of the rare mountain gorilla - and the rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, which embrace evergreen and bamboo forest, open grassland, swamp and heath.
Nothing can prepare one for the impact of encountering a fully-grown silverback gorilla, up to three times the size of an average man, yet remarkably peaceable and tolerant of human visitors. Hiking Rwanda's volcanoes and spending an hour with a gorilla family is without doubt a once in lifetime achievement.
"In the heart of Central Africa, so high up that you shiver more than you sweat, wrote the eminent primatologist Dian Fossey, are great, old volcanoes towering up almost 15,000 feet, and nearly covered with rich, green rainforest - the Virungas. Home of the mountain gorilla and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, here Dian Fossey set up the Karisoke Research Center. She is buried there next to her beloved mountain gorilla Digit. Her cemetery has now become a worldwide attraction. Fossey's life later was portrayed on the big screen in the film Gorillas In The Mist, named after her autobiography. The mountain gorillas are classified as a critically endangered species, whose survival is strictly dependent on daily collaboration among conservation institutions working in the region.