Facts about Mountain gorillas in Africa
Facts about Mountain gorillas are some of the interesting features that a traveler should know before they decide to engage in the gorilla trekking activity. There are several facts about mountain gorillas in Africa. These facts about mountain gorillas range from the genetics of mountain gorillas, the physical description, the habitats, the population, the food they eat, reproduction, leadership, the threats to gorillas and many more as elaborated below;
1. The physical description of Mountain Gorillas
Mountain gorillas are subspecies of Eastern gorillas with longer and thick black fur, slightly shorter arms as compared to other subspecies, large and can stand up to 6-feet. They also have long teeth and jaws. The hands have five fingers with opposable thumbs and can grab anything with hand, just like human beings and their legs also have five toes.
The fur of adult mountain gorillas normally turns white or silver. Mature male gorillas develop sliver patches at their backs and hence referred to as the silverbacks which are always the dominant leaders of the gorilla families weighing around 160kg while an adult female weighs around 98kgs
2. The social lifestyle of mountain gorillas
Mountain Gorillas live in a family of about 30 members headed by a silverback, adult females, and juveniles. The silverback is responsible for taking care of all the family members, mating the females, building the nest, and protecting other family members against any harm. In most cases where there are many silverbacks in, there have always been fights for dominancy amongst themselves and some silverbacks leave the families and form other families or split the family into two and the silverback takes some females to make another family.
3. Genetics of Mountain Gorillas
The genetics are one of the key facts about mountain gorillas that travelers get excited about. The scientific and genetics studies confirmed that Mountain Gorillas share over 98% of their DNA with human making them our second closest cousins after the chimpanzees and bonobo our closest relatives which share relatively 99% of their DNA with a human that confirms the evolution of the human being from the African chimpanzee. Mountain gorillas have active and similar sensory organs like human beings with a clear sense including hearing, smelling, tasting, sighting, and touching similar to human beings.
4. The population of mountain Gorillas
The population of the mountain gorillas is slowly increasing and currently, there are over 1,004 mountain gorilla individuals as compared to 620 that was in existence in 1989. This has been achieved through the conservation measures that have been put in place by several organs such as the Uganda Wildlife Authority, Rwanda Development Board, to protect these endangered primates.
5. Habitats and Movements of mountain Gorillas
The fact is that mountain gorillas prefer places of high altitude ranging between 1500 m to 3965 m high above the sea level. However, these areas are covered with the bamboo forest and thick blush with green vegetation of other plants such as orchids and other leafy plants that gorillas feast on. In Africa, mountain gorilla (Gorille de Montagne) are found in only four national parks including Bwindi impenetrable national park in Uganda which known as the best destination for mountain Gorillas with almost a half of the remaining mountain Gorillas in the wild today. Other mountain gorillas are found in Virunga Volcano Mountains which is shared by three countries of Uganda in Mgahinga national park, Rwanda in volcanoes national park and Democratic Republic of Congo in Virunga national park. Unlike human beings, gorillas walk using both the legs and the arms. Gorillas can climb up in the trees where they make nests sleep in during the night but they spend most of their day hours roaming the forest and climbing the mountain in search of food. And in some cases, they cross borders via the forest and enter into other countries. This has been common with Mountain gorillas in Virunga Mountains which always wonder with the three countries of Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo. This movement sometimes making gorilla trekking these primates a bit difficult because we are never sure of their next destination and the major reason for their movement isn’t known yet whether it’s the search for food or any other factors.
6. Which Diet do the mountain gorillas eat?
Mountain gorillas majorly depend on vegetables from several plant species such as leaves, stem, roots, flowers, fruits, and shoots of the bamboo trees consuming around 50 pounds of leaves a day. They also feast on insects, snails, ants and other small mammals in the forest making them omnivores. Mountain gorillas are rarely seen drinking water means that the food they eat provides them with enough moisture that sustains then for a long period of time.
7. How do Gorillas communicate?
Communication is one of the key facts about mountain gorillas. Gorillas also communicate with each other using different sounds such as hooting, beating the chest, charging, screaming, roaring, chuckling, barking, yawning, and many more and each sound has a meaning or is an alert to something either warning, calling others for food, playing, mating and many more.
Gorillas also use gestures as a sign of communication such as a threat gesture which the silverback makes by turning sideways to show other family members that he is big enough to take action or do anything to manage his family.
9. Who are the major threats of mountain Gorillas?
The major predators of mountain gorillas are the humans and some mammals such as leopards. For the past years, mountain gorillas were referred to as critically endangered due to the fact that their home was being encroached by humans due to farming hence cutting down the forest to create land for farming, and killing most of these primates. Some people were also hunting the mountain gorillas for meat and selling their heads and hands. Mountain gorillas also face the threat of diseases especially in the Virunga Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Most of these diseases also affect people and can be transferred from human beings to the gorillas such as Flue, cough, Ebola and many more airborne diseases.
However, the conservation measures were introduced limiting the agricultural practices, poaching, and hunting thus slightly increasing the population of the mountain gorillas in the wilderness. And currently, the state of the mountain gorillas has been upgraded from critically endangered to endangered meaning that the population is no longer scaring. Also, particular rules and regulations have been put in place to maintain the good health of these primates.
Health rules in the presence of mountain gorillas
Since mountain gorillas share 99% DNA with human, it means that they can acquire the human diseases, therefore, health rules must be followed while in the presence of the gorillas
- Sick people with airborne diseases such as flu and cough are not allowed to trek gorillas
- Trekkers have to stand at a distance of 7 m away from the gorillas while trekking
- No eating or drink anything or smoking close to gorillas
- No littering the park, don’t spit anywhere in the park
- In case of coughing or sneezing, try to cover your nose and mouth and face in the opposite direction away from the gorillas
- If you need to go for a short call, try to bury the wastes at least 30 cm deep
“With all the conservation efforts put in place by different organizations, the population of the mountain gorillas is no longer at the risk of extinct but fairly increasing”.