Wildlife photography is not without its perils. Case in point, this recent incident in which a 550-pound mountain gorilla "drunk" on bamboo shoots rushed a photographer with fists clenched.
As Caters News Agency reports, Christophe Courteau was taking pictures of a group of silverback gorillas in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park when the alpha male of the family, named Akarevuro, suddenly charged at him without provocation. In a remarkable moment of poise, Courteau continued to snap pictures as it was happening.
On that particular day, all the members of the family were drunk from eating bamboo stems, which ferment in their stomachs, causing them to become extremely intoxicated and excitable. According to Christophe, Akarevuro felt threatened by a rival male and stormed towards him. Trouble is, Christophe — an innocent bystander to the whole thing — was caught in the middle.
From the Caters article:
"Suddenly, Akarevuro, who was stood close to us, just ran at me, but I could not move away as I was taking photos on my knees.
"In less than a second, he was on me, and strongly hit me like a rugby player.
"With the shock, I felt all his power and weight on my body.
"A silverback gorilla like him weights around 250kg, so imagine a 250kg rugby player running straight towards you.
"Normally, they timidly avoid visitors when they move close, but not this time, Akarevuro was too excited and drunk.
"He did not care about me, and pushed me out the way with his left hand like if I was not there.
"Then he dashed through the vegetation to chase away a black back male behind us who looked to be interested in one of Akarevuro's females."
Luckily, Christophe did not receive any serious injuries, save for a small gash on his forehead.
*Update: March 3, 2015:
The Smithsonian has taken an exception to the claim that gorillas can get intoxicated on bamboo, writing:
"The suggestion that these gorillas were drunk from fermenting bamboo in the stomach is misleading," says Joanna Lambert, a professor of biological anthropology at the University of Texas at San Antonio. "They just don't have that kind of stomach."
The stomach of a gorilla is like the stomach of a human, in that it is full of digestive acids. It contains no fermenting bacteria, making it impossible for fermentation to occur within the stomach itself. As in humans, fermentation can occur in a gorilla's large intestine, but even that wouldn't render a gorilla drunk. According to Lambert, the process is a completely different kind of fermentation than the one that produces alcohol.
A more plausible scenario is that the gorilla was on a sugar high. Some foods, like bamboo, can contain lots of sugar, which translates to more readily available energy when consumed. If the gorillas had eaten a lot of bamboo, Lambert says, they might have appeared more energetic than usual, but they definitely weren't drunk.
"Somebody needs to tell me why, if they get drunk on bamboo stems, they don't get drunk on any of the rest of their vegetarian diet," says Sandy Harcourt, professor emeritus in the anthropology department at the University of California, Davis.
Check out more images here.
[Via Earth Touch News Network]
All images via Caters News Agency.