Celebrating 25 years of the “Natural World”, BBC 2’s splendid natural history series was back tonight with an in depth look at the Mountain Gorilla’s of Rwanda, specifically a silverback called Titus.
Watching it on a whim I was soon drawn into this fascinating world of the Gorilla and found myself quite affected by the story told. With my background in Zoology I have always been aware of the mountain Gorilla’s, of Diana Fossey and her plight and was therefore intrigued when I found out that the leading man of tonight’s show was a Gorilla born under the watchful eye of Diane Fossey and her team. Having an in depth history of Titus’s background, where he was born, how he survived, how he overcame the largest of obstacles to become the longest running King Silverback in our records was quite astounding.
Titus relaxes amongst the vegetation
Born to Flossey, Titus found himself alone at a young age after the group was overtaken by a rogue male who killed Titus’s baby sister. With an unnerving display of humanitarian characteristics his mother and several other females fled the group leaving Titus abandoned and alone with a group of males, the leader being the murderer of his sister. For the next few years the male troupe remained intact, showing a homosexual behaviour never before seen within Gorilla’s, until, after the death of a silverback from another group, a number of females appeared on the scene. Beester, the leader of the Titus’s group, killed two of the new female’s babies and ran the rest of the males out of town but yet again in another unknown behavioural characteristic allowed his good friend Titus to remain behind. In the following years Titus gained in strength and allegiance, siring his first child unbeknown to Beester at the tender age of eleven.
But it was Titus’s character that stood out. He’d been abandoned, he’d survived against all odds, the murderer and leader of a male troupe had allowed him to survive and then, in another bizarre twist Titus somehow managed a coo to take over the troupe without spilling any bloodshed. This was an outstanding character.
Natural World wrapped up with another shock. As Titus took his troupe to the summit of their mountain territory his strange friendship with another silverback, Kuryama, amidst the troupe (allowing another fully grown silverback within a group is in itself extremely rare) was broken as Kuryama took, through non aggressive terms, most of the group back down the mountain leaving Titus with only a few of his loyalist supporters. But it was then revealed that this other male, had in fact been confirmed through DNA sampling, as Titus’s first ever child. Titus himself took his remaining group down the other side of the mountain into Congo and later emerged with a newly born baby in tow, his siring days weren’t over yet.
Some of Titus's many offspring including overthrower Kuryama
But it was the intensity of this 40minute show that really struck me. Here were living, breathing, intelligent beings. A mother fled a group after her baby was murdered, a father allowed his son to remain in his troupe up until the point where he himself was overthrown. Why are we allowing these creatures to be murdered and poached. They are our closest living relatives, they are intelligent, and yet we are increasingly making them extinct. At one point in time they ascended into the mountains and we took our first steps towards humanity. It could have easily been the other way around, one small step the other way and the roles could be reversed. Natural World should be watched, pondered upon and then your feelings acted on.
BBC 2, Tuesday’s at 20.00