Guhonda is the largest primate living in the world today. As explained last week, Guhonda translates into “one who likes to beat on his chest.” A more literal translation is “to crush or pulverize.” Rumour has it that even as a baby Guhonda would strut around beating his chest, biding his time until he was king of the jungle. It depends on whether you’re interested in the romantic and mythical translation, or the absolutely terrifying translation.
Guhonda is the patriarch of the Sabyinyo group. Hiking to the Sabyinyo group wasn’t nearly as trying as hiking to any of the other groups we had the chance to see. Fittingly, the Sabyinyo group lives on Mount Sabyinyo, which translates into “old man’s teeth.” The mountain is actually a dormant volcano; sharp and craggy it deserves its moniker. On the day of our hike to find Guhonda, he had shepherded his flock to the very edge of PNV. In fact, some of the juveniles were actually playing at pulling apart the park wall when we arrived. Naomi captured this juvenile sitting up on the wall eating lunch and just watching us.
After spending a few minutes watching the young ones play, Francois wanted to go in search of Guhonda himself. When we came across Guhonda, he was sitting at the bottom of a small gully pulling down trees to eat the leaves growing at the top of the trees. Yes, that’s right, he was pulling trees down. Not with huge fanfare, just reaching up and pulling the top of the trees down to his own comfortable eating height.
After taking note of us, Guhonda wandered off to circle his group to ensure that he had everyone accounted for. After another 20 minutes or so, we spotted Guhonda under some very dense brush supervising our visit with the Sabyinyo group. At this point Guhonda started to make a guttural noise, almost like he was clearing his throat. Francois smiled in joy and told everyone to stand back off the little path we had been standing on. “He wants to beat on his chest.” Francois, we think, enjoyed everyone’s moment of panic.
Mark snapped this picture just before Guhonda came crashing out of the bush, up on his two hind legs he must have been over 7 feet tall. He ran forward, smashing his open palms against his chest to make a hollow popping sound; almost like the blades of a helicopter. Across into the clearing and across the path we were just standing on, he disappeared into the dense bush on the other side of the clearing.
Everyone in our small group laughed nervously. Except for Francois who just continued to smile to himself. Later Francois explained that Guhonda hadn’t felt threatened, he wasn’t even warning us to stay away, he just felt that he wasn’t getting enough attention.
Guhonda, you see, likes to be the centre of attention. At around 500lbs, he can be the centre of attention all he wants.