Mountain gorillas are unique primates native to Africa that every tourist who is for a gorilla trekking Safari should not miss to see. Meeting eye to eye with these unique primates is one of the most remarkable and heartwarming moments that will leave you satisfied with memories for a lifetime. These giant Apes are only found in two regions in the whole world that is Bwindi National Park of Uganda and the Virunga mountains Complex comprising of three national Parks that is Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mgahinga National Park of Uganda and Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda. Currently there are 880 mountain gorillas left whereby 400 individuals live in Bwindi National Park and 480 are in the Virunga Mountain complex. There are 13 habituated mountain gorilla groups in Uganda out of which 12 are open for visitation by tourists and the remaining one is for research purposes. Out of the 12 gorilla groups available for visitation, 11 of them can be tracked from Bwindi and one group from Mgahinga.10 habituated gorilla groups are found in the Volcanoes National Park and 8 habituated groups can be tracked from DRC’s Virunga National Park
These primates are considered the close cousins of human beings in that 98% of their DNA makeup is similar to those or humans, meaning they are susceptible to diseases like Flue, Cold and even Ebola. They are considered “Critically Endangered by International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. This is why several conservation efforts are being put to ensure their survival for generations because any change in environment or serious diseases outbreak, the entire population can be completely obliterated.
Scientifically, the Mountain Gorillas are known as Gorilla beringei beringei. There are two species of gorillas in the world that is the Eastern and the Western Gorillas, the mountain gorillas are sub-specie of the Eastern Gorillas. Just like their name suggests they are found in Mountainous areas and cannot live in Captivity like their Lowland counterparts that can thrive in captivity. In some zoos tourists see gorillas and assume that they are the same. Visit the mentioned countries (Uganda, DRC and Rwanda) and get a lifetime opportunity to meet these unique species of gorillas. They can be characterized by;
Their unique habitat. These critically endangered primates live in rainforests and areas of higher altitudes ranging from 2200 to 4500m.However these rainforests that they inhabit also have varying elevations of 1,190 to 2,607 meters above sea level in Bwindi National Park, 2000meters to 3,600 meters above sea level in the Virungas national Parks. Mountain gorillas are usually distributed across different vegetation types of the volcanic mountains which include montane rainforests, Bamboo forests among others.
Mountain gorillas being social animals, they live in harmony in groups of up to 30 individuals. The group usually comprises one or two silverbacks (male adults), Alpha female/s (dominant female/s in the group), juvenile females, blackbacks (young male between 8 and 12 years) and infants. The Silverback is in charge of the group for example to keep the group safe from intruders (enemies). When the silverback senses there is danger, he responds by beating his chest as a way of intimidating his counterpart or fights the attacker as the rest of the family members flee the scene to a secure place. The silver back is also in charge of making major decisions in the group like where the group sleeps, moves and where to feed.
These herbivores/vegetarians eat large amount of food and their diet comprises roots, stems of herbs, leaves/vines, bamboo shoots, barks of trees, bedstraw thistles, wild celery, nettles and occasionally ants and worms.
In terms of reproduction, these fascinating primates are considered to have slow reproduction rate. The females mature faster than males and give birth for the first time at about 10 years compared to the males who start reproducing at 12-15 years. Their estrus cycle goes for 30 to 33 days and gestation period ranges from 259 to 274 days. The females give birth to one baby at a time at an interval of 4 years and in their 30 years lifespan can give birth to about 2 to 6 off springs. The babies are born weighing 4 – 4.4 pounds, are usually helpless like humans and most times grip on the backs of their mothers and begin walking from 7.5 months to 10 months after birth. Are breast fed for over 12 months and the infant mountain gorillas are weaned at 2 to 3 years of age (this is usually the maximum age they stay with their mothers).The infants reach maturity at 11 to 12 years. The females are over protective of their off springs and can give up their lives to defend them.
They are strong and massive animals with an adult male gorilla weighing between 397 and 485 pounds while fully grown females weigh half the weight of their counterparts that is 198 to 216 pounds. These inquisitive primates are predominantly quadruped terrestrial mammals that just climb those strong trees with strong branches that can hold their hefty bodies. The average height of these fascinating creatures is between 1.2 and 1.8 meters tall (4-6 feet). Have short arms and thick trunks with wide and sturdy shoulders. Their arms are stronger and longer than their legs.
Their longer, thick and darker hairs (fur) on their skins. Because they inhabit areas of higher altitudes that are generally cold, the long and thick hairs help to regulate their body temperatures. These longer furs help them to thrive in areas of high altitudes where temperatures drop even up to freezing point.
Just like each individual human being has finger prints unique to them, the mountain gorillas are not exceptional. Each mountain gorilla has nose print that is distinctive to each individual. Their eyes and eyes are overshadowed/dwarfed by their large heads and their muzzle is lustrous without hairs.
In conclusion, mountain gorillas are unique species of gorillas because of their remarkable features and behaviors which include their group composition, body appearance, unique habitation which makes them unique to only three countries (Uganda, Rwanda and DRC).A magical encounter with these fascinating creatures in any of the countries will be an emotional moment that will leave you triumphant with pleasant memories for a lifetime.