Mountain gorillas are some of the most interesting animals that tourists to Uganda and Rwanda enjoy seeing. As our close animal relatives, seeing gorillas is an experience of observing a family of gorillas go about their day in their natural habitat of the thick rainforest and steep ridges.
Whether you have ever seen gorillas or not, their intriguing life and individual personalities are something that is worth experiencing.
In this article, we’ll look at some facts about mountain gorillas that make them interesting to so many people. While learning about gorillas is great, seeing the mountain gorillas and looking directly into the eyes of a calm silverback or a caring mother is transformational.
Interesting Facts About Mountain Gorillas.
1. Physical Description
The fur of the Mountain Gorilla, often thicker and longer than that of other gorilla species, enables them to live in colder temperatures. Gorillas can be identified by nose prints unique to each individual. Males usually weigh twice as much as females, and this subspecies is on average the largest of all gorillas.
Gorillas are the biggest primates in the world. Male mountain gorillas are often bigger than females and weigh between 120 and 190 kilograms (265 to 420 pounds). Females on the other hand often weigh around 70 to 100 kilograms (154 to 220 pounds).
Mountain gorillas can be as tall as 6 feet (180 cm) with an arm span of up to 2.7 meters.
3. Relation to Humans
According to evolution, gorillas and humans evolved from the same primate ancestors. We share around 97% of our DNA with gorillas. Gorillas, humans, chimpanzees, and bonobos evolved from a common ancestor millions of years ago.
Apart from the DNA analyses and all the science, gorillas have strong social bonds and hierarchies. Watching them go about their day, you notice so many subtleties that one would describe as ‘human’.
4. Are gorillas friendly
Mountain gorillas and all gorillas, in general, are commonly referred to as gentle giants because of their calm predisposition. This is quite surprising since popular media like the King Kong movies can make someone think of gorillas as unfriendly creatures.
When you for gorilla trekking and get to watch them in the thick forests, they are often sitting around, eating, or resting as the youngster of the family play around and climb trees. The dominant silverback gorilla is responsible for leading and protecting the family but looking into his red and kind eyes will draw you in rather than scare you.
Mountain gorillas are friendly and not aggressive.
We must caution that a gorilla is a very strong animal and while they are used to seeing people on a regular basis – gorillas are still wild animals and you have to follow the guidelines and rules of your ranger.
5. Mountain gorilla Habitat
Unlike the 0ther gorilla species, mountain gorillas do not survive in captive environments like a zoo. Therefore, mountain gorillas only live in the natural rainforests of Uganda, Rwanda, and D.R. Congo.
In Uganda, gorillas are found in Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks. In Rwanda, gorillas can be seen in Volcanoes National Park while in the Democratic Republic of Congo, gorillas are present in Virunga National Park.
The general area is referred to as the Virunga ranges since 3 of the national parks are connected to the international borders of Rwanda Uganda and DR. Congo. Only Bwindi is not physically connected to the other parks, but it is very close.
6. Mountain Gorilla Diet
Mountain gorillas are omnivores just like humans and chimpanzees. The regular diet of a mountain gorilla is mostly comprised of leaves, fruits, shoots, barks, buds, roots, and piths. Gorillas are not known to regularly hunt other animals except for ants and insects which make up less than 2 % of their whole diet.
Gorillas are big animals that eat a lot of food – about 10% of their body weight. An adult mountain gorilla, therefore, eats around 20 kilograms of leaves, stems, shoots, and fruits every day.
Gorillas know how to sustainably feed on various parts of the plants to ensure that the plant is not destroyed. For example, a gorilla will not eat both leaves and roots from the same exact plant (tree) as this would destroy the plant.
Gorillas are huge animals that are considered to be stronger than the strongest humans. While there is no perfect comparison of how strong a gorilla is, it is assumed that an adult gorilla is averagely stronger than 10 adult humans.
Compared with other wild animals, a gorilla bites twice as hard as a male adult lion with a biteforce of 1300 PSI.
8. Social Structures
Mountain gorillas have well-defined social structures with the dominant silverback as the leader. The silverback leads the group and determines the family’s movement to various feeding grounds throughout the year.
The silverback is also responsible for protecting the group from other intruding gorillas. This can at times mean physically fighting off another silverback that wants to take over the group.
Gorillas are typically active during the daytime between 6 am and 6 pm. They spend much of their day eating except for the afternoon naps where they rest before resuming the feeding until the evening when each mature gorilla makes a sleeping nest.
Each gorilla builds a nest from surrounding vegetation to sleep in, constructing a new one every evening. Only infants sleep in the same nest as their mothers. They leave their sleeping sites when the sun rises at around 6 am, except when it is cold.
10. Mountain Gorilla Life Cycle
Females become sexually mature at 7-8 years old, but do not start to breed until several years later. Males mature later than females, with a few breeding before the age of 15 years.
High infant mortality, a long gestation (8.5 months), a tendency to single births, and a prolonged period of maternal care mean that, on average, only one baby is reared in a 4-6 year period. Females generally give birth to only three or four surviving young during their reproductive life.
The mortality rate for gorillas less than one-year-old is high, but for adults, the rate is only 5%. In the wild, they might live from 40 to 50 years old. In the United States, a captive gorilla was reported to have lived to the age of 54.
Mountain gorillas are considered endangered species. This is according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN Redlist) which is based on the mountain gorillas’ limited numbers and extremely restricted habitat range.
While the numbers are increasing at a good rate, the fact that mountain gorillas can not survive in captive environments like zoos make the conservation work hard. They can’t be transferred to other places to increase their habitat range.
12. Mountain gorilla Population
There are around 1000 mountain gorillas left in the world. All these gorillas are found in Uganda, Rwanda, and DR Congo.
Since the last official mountain gorilla census in 2018, there have been many recorded mounting gorilla newborns in all the national parks of Uganda, Rwanda and D.R Congo.
13. Mountain Gorilla Predators
The greatest threat to Mountain Gorillas is the encroachment of growing villages around them. There had been a slash-and-burn mentality and it was hard to see how large tracks of land should be left for Gorillas, it is through an educational process by the Uganda Wildlife Authority and cash incentives to the community through tourism that the gorillas in Uganda are not as threatened by poachers as they might be in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
They are also threatened by diseases that humans may bring to the park. That is why Uganda Wildlife Authority has strict rules in place to prevent the spreading of disease from humans to Mountain Gorillas
Mountain gorillas are truly fascinating and we hope this article has inspired you to look deeper into them. The experience of seeing the gorillas up close is very special and if it can be possible for you, we promise it will be something you never forget.
If you would wish to come and see gorillas in either Uganda or Rwanda, feel free to talk to us about planning a gorilla trekking safari for you. We plan with you at every stage of the way and make sure that every last detail is looked over and sorted – leaving you simply taking in the unbelievable experiences of your gorilla-tracking holiday.
You can also check out some of our already-made safari itineraries to get a more complete idea of how a safari typically runs.