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In the world of wildlife photography, getting the perfect shot comes with a lot of work and sacrifice. Sometimes it requires spending hours on end waiting for an animal to appear or passing the time until the weather clears up. For one photographer, her patience was rewarded with a unique chance to see a silverback gorilla hitting its chest up close in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park—a moment that was both thrilling and tense.
This interaction was luckily captured on video, which was shared by photographer Richard De Gouveia on Instagram. “When we first arrived the clouds were darkening and the vegetation was thick. The trackers were trying to find views for us as the gorillas fed and the storm grew closer,” he recalls. “What started as a drizzle turned into a torrential downpour and the gorillas found shelter and so did we.”
In the footage, the silverback gorilla appears in the foreground, giving his profile to the camera. Meanwhile, the photographer observes him, from the background, camera in hand. Out of the blue, the gorilla charges towards the area where the photographer is sitting, pounding his chest at the same time.
“While watching another gorilla the silverback came marching in from behind us and put on a show that won't be forgotten in a hurry by our cool, calm, and collected guest who handled the moment perfectly,” De Gouveia, who also serves as a guide, writes. “She then moved out to make sure we kept a safe distance from the gorillas.”
De Gouveia added some more details about this expedition, and how it hopes to take care of both photographers and animals. “In theory, we try and maintain a big distance but in reality, it doesn't always work out this way. Masks help us minimize any passing on of our diseases to them and distance is maintained as best as possible,” he adds. “We are also limited to one hour with the family as this is the point at which the chance of sharing our diseases with them exponentially increases.”
While this encounter ended on a peaceful note, it reminds us of the great lengths wildlife photographers go to bring us closer to animals we otherwise wouldn't know much about. Their labor, much like anyone else in a scientific field, shouldn't be taken for granted.