Speaking to gorillas in the Impenetrable Forest - 60 Minutes

Speaking to gorillas in the Impenetrable Forest – 60 Minutes

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For this week’s 60 Minutes, correspondent Bill Whitaker traveled to the Impenetrable Forest in a remote part of southwestern Uganda. He and his crew went with American virus trackers, who are trying to locate and stop the next virus from jumping from wildlife to humans.

Getting to the Impenetrable Forest took about a full day of travel, first from New York to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Kigali, Rwanda, and then from Kigali to Entebbe, Uganda. Then they flew in a small commuter jet from Entebbe to Kahihi before driving another hour from to Bwindi. 

“And you finally get to Bwindi, and Bwindi was like a garden,” Whitaker said. “And it’s just lush green with flowers blooming everywhere. It was quite magnificent.”

The Impenetrable Forest is as it sounds, dense and thick with vines and giant ferns, fir trees and hardwood trees. At some points the sun could not shine through the thick growth. 

Some of the American doctors the 60 Minutes team was with are from an organization called Gorilla Doctors. When they first started monitoring the Impenetrable Forest’s gorillas in the 1980s, there were about 250 mountain gorillas. Today, there are 459, and the gorilla population is growing. 

The 60 Minutes team was also with park rangers, who keep track of the forest’s gorilla families. Park ranger Wilbur Tumwesigye was able to call a family of gorillas over to Whitaker and the crew, communicating with the gorillas to assure them the group was safe. 

Tumwesigye told Whitaker that humans have identified 14 different sounds mountain gorillas make. He has mastered many of those sounds, including the sound silverbacks make when telling their group, “It’s time to leave.”

Whitaker recalled the experience of watching the gorillas up close. 

“They were eating and grooming, and the mothers were breastfeeding the babies,” Whitaker said. “The babies were playing. The teenagers were roughhousing. And the big silverback was just sort of sitting, watching guard over the whole thing. And they were right in front of us. It was magical.”

The video above was produced by Will Croxton and Brit McCandless Farmer. It was edited by Will Croxton.

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