Information about Mountain Gorillas – Where they are found, How to see gorillas, Trekking Tips and more guide
In general, gorillas are believed to have originated from monkeys and other apes in Arabia and Africa approximately 9 million years. After over 2 million years ago, the Eastern gorillas split from the Western gorillas in West and Central Africa. They further broke into 2 sub-species that is mountain gorillas and eastern lowland gorillas, about 400,000 years back.
Gorillas adopted their name in 1952 after the genus were first called “Troglodytes.” Around 1967, Colin Groves came with the idea of giving each gorilla species their names hence Western lowland gorilla, Mountain gorilla and Eastern Lowland gorilla.
Where are mountain gorilla found in Africa?
In the whole world, mountain gorillas are only found in 3 countries; Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In Uganda, about half of all the world’s 1063 mountain gorillas thrive in the country’s 2 National Parks that is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. In Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park in the Northwestern part of the country is where a section of mountain gorillas lives and D.R. Congo houses both mountain gorillas and eastern lowland gorillas. In D.R. Congo, mountain gorillas are found in Virunga National Park while eastern lowland gorillas are in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, Maiko National Park and other places.
How many mountain gorillas are there in the world?
Mountain gorillas still remain in small number, about 1063 of them still survive in the 3 countries (Uganda, Rwanda and D.R. Congo). The Western Lowland gorillas on the other hand are estimated to be about 250,000 and Eastern Lowland gorillas are fewer than 8000. Unlike the lowland gorillas, the mountain gorillas can’t live in captivity and as of to date, mountain gorillas are listed among the endangered species by the IUCN.
Physical characteristics of mountain gorillas
Mountain gorillas are unique species with thicker fur unlike any other gorilla species in Africa. Due to the nature of their bodies, they are able to survive in cold higher altitude areas. Mountain gorillas live in tropical rain-forests of Africa in high mountainous areas with altitudinal range of 8000-13000feet.
A mature adult male mountain gorilla is called silverback and it is called so due to the silver hair that grows on its back. A female gorilla can weigh up to 100kgs and silverback over 195kgs. Generally, silverback gorillas are taller and estimated to be 4 times stronger than any largest human being. Compared to the Eastern Lowland gorillas, mountain gorillas weigh less and they are smaller in size. The biggest lowland gorilla ever recorded was shot in Cameroon and it weighed over 267kgs. Mountain gorillas like other species of gorillas can be distinguished by their distinct nose prints which differs from each individual.
Mountain gorillas have dark brown eyes, longer hands than legs and capable of standing or move upright. The kind of movement of mountain gorillas is known as knuckle-walking-where they use their fingers to support their weight. During day, mountain gorilla are very active from 6:00am-6:00pm. They spend most of their time feeding on vegetation and rarely do they drink water-this is because the largest part of their food is succulent.
Mountain gorillas are active in the morning when they are feeding and they rest during midday when they get time to bond with each other. This is also the best time to watch the juveniles playing, wrestling or somersaulting etc. The adults can be engaged in different games and they use different ways to communicate to each for instance, tree barks and grants are used to locate each other within the dense vegetation cover. New nests are built as the night approaches and they use mostly tree leaves and other vegetation for making them. The infants usually share the same nest with mothers.
What is a mountain gorilla?
A mountain gorilla is one of the great apes in the world and a sub-species of the Eastern gorilla. It is one of the biggest living primates in the world and known to have muscular arms, broad hands, chest and longer hair, short arms than the lowland gorilla. Scientifically, mountain gorillas are called Gorilla beringei beringei.
Dian Fossey and mountain gorillas
Mountain gorillas were first identified by Captain Robert von Beringe on his expedition to establish the boundaries of then German colonies in East Africa. Two of large apes were shot, one was captured and sent to the museum in Germany which led to discovery of a new species of gorilla- Gorilla beringei which derived its name from Captain Robert.
After some decades, many other researchers developed interest in studying more about gorilla beringei and included George Schaller in 1959 and Dian Fossey in 1967. Dian Fossey conducted research on mountain gorillas and interestingly, she discovered new techniques of habituating them including mimicking their sounds, gaining trust of the dominant male silverback etc. Dian Fossey arranged the first gorilla census and changed her focus from research to gorilla conservation thus spreading their plight to the rest of the world.
Mountain gorilla trekking
Mountain gorilla trekking is done in 4 National Parks in Africa that is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Southwestern Uganda; Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in D.R. Congo. Trekking to see these massive apes in the wild is ultimately a life changing experience.
In each of the mountain gorilla destinations, the cost of permits does differ whereby visitors on gorilla safari in Uganda pay USD700 for Foreign Non-Residents, USD600 for Foreign Residents and UGX 250,000 East Africa Citizen. Rwanda gorilla permits cost USD1500 and D.R. Congo issues her gorilla permits at USD450 per person. Booking for gorilla permits in any of the gorilla trekking safari destinations is possible either via reliable and recognized tour operator on ground or directly book with respective park authorities in destination you plan to visit to see mountain gorillas.