TREKKING eight hours through the imposingly-dense mountainside forests of Uganda’s aptly-named Bwindi Impenetrable National Park isn’t everyone’s idea of a relaxing break abroad.
But for keen environmentalist and former scientist Linda Batsleer, the arduous struggle through the rugged, Ugandan terrain was certainly worth it, as she witnessed some of the world’s most endangered creatures.
The retired 60-year-old, who lives in Yapton, spent several weeks tracking a group of elusive mountain gorillas during a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the African nation.
But for Linda, the visit was not just about observing the endangered primates.
She wanted to highlight the serious plight faced by many of the country’s rarest animals.
She said: “These animals are so humbling, but they still face a great deal of hardship at the hands of our species’ continuing population growth.
“These creatures are trapped by ever-encroaching human settlements, at the lower-end of their forest.
“Borders between humans and gorillas, as well as those between various gorilla groups, are becoming dangerously blurred.”
The result of which, Linda believes, led to a brutal fight between two gorilla packs, which left one baby gorilla dead and several others injured, while she was there.
With fewer than 800 wild mountain gorillas recorded globally, Linda said incidents like this were a “tragedy”.
During her trip, she saw other endangered species from a pack of chimpanzees in the Kyambura Gorge, in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park, to a herd of elephants passing within touching distance of her Land Rover.
She also had a close encounter with a hippopotamus at the national park’s Kazinga Channel after it barged into the boat she was travelling on.
Linda, who has been a conservation volunteer at the Arundel Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre for two years, is now preparing for her next trip abroad, volunteering at a nature reserve in Australia, later this year.
She feels that the battle to help save endangered species should begin at home.
She is urging people to think about the food, clothing and furniture they buy, as well as how many children they choose to have, in a bid to support at-risk animals.
She said: “It’s important people understand the impact their lives can have elsewhere in the world.”