Mountain Gorillas are among the most threatened primate species in the world today. These great apes were discovered in the 1902 by a German hunter Robert Von Beringe who had gone on a hunting expedition into the tropical rain forests of Central Africa. Prior to this time, only lowland gorillas were known to exist.
Belonging to the Eastern gorilla species, the mountain gorillas are a subspecies that is native to only three countries in the world. These are Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to the IUCN, there are as few as 1000 mountain gorillas left in the whole world. Though their population has been dwindling, several efforts have made the recovery of the gorilla population possible. This led to the rise of the gorilla population from as few as 720 mountain gorillas in the year 2009 to about 1005 individuals as per the latest census of 2018.
You can visit and see the remaining living population of the mountain gorillas on a gorilla safari through the three countries of Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Safe Haven for Gorillas
The amazing efforts have led to the establishment of a safe gorilla haven in Africa. Today these great apes live in four gazetted national parks; Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda and three separate national parks the Virunga Mountains shared by Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda. These are Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The mountain gorillas are 10th of the most endangered species in the world recorded to be only about 700 individuals in the world. There are approximately 1000 species distributed between the Virunga Mountains and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
A vote of thanks should be given to the Late Dian Fossey, an American Iron lady who devoted all her life in protecting the mountain gorillas from poachers who exterminated most of Africa’s wildlife. This primatologist died on duty from the gunshots of poachers but her dream has lived on with the Dian Fossey Fund leading gorilla conservation in Africa. During your visit to Volcanoes National Park, you can pay a tribute to the late Dian Fossey by visiting her grave at the Karisoke Research Centre. The hike to the centre takes about 8 hours and departs daily from Kinigi park headquarters at 8.00Am.
There are approximately 420 mountain gorillas living in the Bwindi Forests of Uganda. The remaining population is distributed to the remnant three national parks in the Virungas. Bwindi is a large ancient tropical rain forest in South Western Uganda stretching on over 336 square kilometres. The park is home to several gorilla families and it is the leading destination for gorilla watching today.
Within the Virunga, the gorillas are protected in three separate national parks. The Virunga is a large area that is characterized by eight volcanoes. The Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest of all the gorilla parks and protects the mountain gorillas that roam through Uganda.
The Virunga National Park of Congo is the largest and it is known to host other wildlife that include chimpanzees.
The Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda is the most accessible of all the gorilla parks and it lies within a distance of just 3 hours drive from Kigali.
Within all these parks, the gorillas roam freely through the forest.
There are No Gorillas in Captivity
All the remaining mountain gorillas are found living in their natural home. There is no single gorilla in captivity. These great apes can only survive in the montane forest home and are protected by the international law for conservation. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categorizes the mountain gorillas as endangered species. By international law capturing or killing a gorilla is illegal. If you love and care for our environment, you need to learn more about our gorillas who are our distant cousins. You can learn more about these great apes on the My Gorillas online portal.
Gorillas live in families
Gorillas live in groups / families devoid of territorial boundaries with a family range of 2 to 15 square miles. They live in varying numbers of about 6-12 individuals with the Silverback as the dominant male with some females, infants and juveniles. The female gorillas determine the group size. That is; they will decide on who the members of the group should comprise for instance, they are known to fight with a new member they are not willing to join the group until they keep her out of their group. The same applies to a member who wishes to leave the group yet other members like her; they often hold her legs and guard her from leaving the group.
Gorillas are primarily vegetarians and believed to feed on up to 58 different types of plant species, including; leaves, roots, stems, ferns, flowers, thistles, bamboo shoots, and tree wood. Fruits, celery and Gallium vines and Senecio trees are their favorite foods. Gorillas have large teeth in the back of their mouth that aids in the grinding of foliage, bamboo and bark.
Gorillas communicate using different mechanisms for instance; rumbling the stomach which means they are contented, an open mouth showing the lower and upper jaw means aggressions, a pig grunt of harsh staccato grunts often when complaining or disciplining, roaring or screaming is set when a gorilla is threatened. A loud hoot is given when silverbacks are interacting, chest beating and thrashing of trees is used to scare off opponents. When gorillas are afraid they send out a powerful scent from their glands.
Gorillas Are Affected by Poaching
The gorillas are affected by the overwhelming costs of increased habitat loss, spread of dangerous diseases, and above all, poaching for bush meat and trade. Though a lot has been done to protect these great apes, a lot need to be done to protect these threatened species so that they can’t get extinct.
A visit to the gorillas in their natural habitat can be an exciting expedition. During the hike in search of these primates who exhibit human nature, you will learn more about the gorillas. A trip to see the gorillas is so rewarding and for many have regarded it as being a tour worthwhile and for a lifetime.
It is our duty to protect the animals from getting extinct and the mountain gorillas are also some of the animals that need serious attention. With just as few as 1000 mountain gorillas left in the whole world, it is a global duty to preserve and protect threatened species for our future generations. There are so many ways you can get involved in this noble cause and one of the best ways is to spread the world about the much-needed conservation of our brotherly giants.