Friday, March 2, 2012

A Staring Contest with Buffalo

Bwenge’s group encountered a herd of buffalo today in the Kupoteza area of Volcanoes National Park (in the saddle between Mount Karisimbi and Mount Visoke), reports Karisoke researchers Winnie Eckardt, Ph.D. and Stacy Rosenbaum. When the two researchers arrived at the group this morning, the gorillas were huddled together and staring intently at something. Rosenbaum’s first thought was “lone silverback." But as it turned out it was a herd of 14 buffalo -- calves, mothers and old males, staring right back at the curious black creatures.

After a considerable staring contest ensued, the adult gorillas lost interest and resumed feeding.  The youngsters of the group, determined to “defend” their family, confidently strut-stanced back and forth in front of the ambivalent bovines, periodically chest beating to make their message clear.

Two-year-olds Gasore and Ubuhamya, along with 4-year-old Ntaribi, continued their posturing for a while, slowly inching closer to the buffalo until Nzeli (mother of Ubuhamya) sauntered up and grabbed her infant, bringing her back to the group. Eckardt, who is studying stress in mountain gorillas, said that the group “didn’t seem to be stressed or bothered by the buffalos' presence at all. They were definitely interested in them." After an hour had passed - and both species had ruled each other out as a potential threat - the animals went their separate ways from the meadow.

Jessica Burbridge, Field Communications Officer

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