An avid animal-lover was not about to let her wheelchair keep her from fulfilling her dream of meeting gorillas in the wild.
Susie Twydell, 40, who has multiple sclerosis, had given up hope of seeing the primates in their natural habitat when she was diagnosed with the disease in 2012.
But once Twydell, a London native, was told she had the ability to be taken up to see the gorillas at the Rwandan wildlife park on a stretcher, she signed up immediately, and sold furniture and clothes to fund the June trip.
Along with her husband David, Twydell was met by a team of porters who carried her up the mountain in a 45-minute journey to where the gorillas reside.
Twydell was helped out of her stretcher and into her wheelchair so she could take a closer look. Through binoculars she soon spotted a large silverback a few meters in front of her and another three or four babies clambering on top of him, she said.
"It took me by surprise, but it was the No. 1 experience of my life,” Twydell said. "I have been to 81 countries in my lifetime but I thought this trip was impossible. It was such an amazing privilege — what they've done in Rwanda to help this critically endangered species is incredible."
A baby gorilla even investigated Twydell’s shoes.
“They were clambering all over their silverback father, swinging from overhanging vines and brilliantly for me [and] were mesmerized by the sight of a wheelchair in their midst,” she added.
Mountain gorillas share 98 percent of human DNA, but hunting and habitat loss saw the Rwandan population fall to just 254 in 1981. There are still fewer than 1,000 mountain gorillas left worldwide.