Overview & Features
Until recently, Bwindi’s mountain gorillas shared their forest with the Batwa pygmies, a tribe of hunter-gatherers who lived in its caves and trees for more than 4,000 years. Although they never hunted gorillas, the Batwa’s proximity increased the risk of infection to animals that share 98 per cent of human DNA. Only an estimated 4,000 Batwa live in south-west Uganda, about 1,000 of them in the Kanungu district, which includes Bwindi. As the original dwellers of this ancient jungle, the Batwa were known as “The Keepers of the Forest.” The history of these small-statured people is long and rich. The Batwa survived by hunting small game using arrows or nets and gathering plants and fruit in the rain forest. They lived in huts constructed of leaves and branches, moving frequently in search of fresh supplies of food. The Batwa lived in harmony with the forest and its creatures, including the mountain gorillas, for millennia. Some anthropologists estimate that pygmy tribes such as the Batwa have existed in the equatorial forests of Africa for 60,000 years or more.
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