TITUS the gorilla

TITUS the gorilla

This U.N. “Year of the Gorilla” couldn’t have come at a worse economic time, and as if to underscore the sadness, the great Silverback Titus has died.

Probably the most studied mountain gorilla on earth, Titus, died September 14 at the age of 35. He was survived by uncountable progeny and most importantly his son, Rano, who killed him.

Titus lived in Rwanda’s Volcano National Park, the master for so many years of the Susa Group. His birth was recorded on August 24, 1974, by American researcher, Kelly Stewart. He was observed every day thereafter until researchers at the Karisoke Research Station found him dead in his nest in the morning.

Rano had been hassling him for months. Titus avoided fights – he was still bigger but not as strong as his son – but the researchers who buried him in the gorilla cemetery on September 16 (at the site of the original Karisoke Research Camp) said he had just “given up” to Rano’s incessant bullying. Thirty-five is a ripe old age for a wild gorilla.

There was no autopsy. Researchers do not think he was sick. He was just old, and hassled by his son.

During his life he made films (click here) , was WikiPedia’s poster child (click here) , and even headlined the BBC World News (click here) . Simply put, he was the baseline not only for mountain gorilla research, but the rise of tourism that ultimately saved this endangered creature.

The heavy sort-of El Nino rains that were predicted had started two weeks earlier. New bamboo shoots were sprouting everywhere, and this meant that the gorilla families didn’t have to wander so much each day to feed. More time for bickering, I guess.

It is an oustandingly beautiful time in the park. Some of the orchids continue to bloom as the rains begin, the already lush jungle bursts out in fresh color and smells, and the whole mess of foliage is filled with rainbow colors of elegant Arum Lilys, wild versions of Geraniums, Hyacinths, Aster Daisys, Lupins, Dahlias and Nasturtiums.

The greatest of the turacos moves into its spectacular breeding plumage, looking like a giant blue soccer ball piercing the green, its monkey-like grunting echoing all over the place.

It was probably his favorite time. So make your bed, go to sleep and let pesky Rano take over.