Top 10 Facts About Mountain Gorillas – Structure, Diet, Social Life and Habitat
Mountain gorillas are very captivating creatures and have countless unique features that make them stand out. Mountain gorillas are found in three countries in Africa, including democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.
They are gentle apes remaining in the Virungas, in the northwest of Rwanda part of volcanoes as well as Mgahinga in the southwest part of Uganda and also the Virungas of the central part. Mountain gorillas can also be found in Bwindi impenetrable national park located in the southwest part of Uganda.
Because Uganda is one of the only countries where you can find mountain gorillas species, many tourists love to visit the pearl of Africa to view these amazing mammals and join in the trekking safaris. Therefore, if you’re planning for a Uganda gorilla safari, you need to know some facts about mountain gorillas and below are listed;
- Mountain Gorilla Description;
Mountain gorillas can be identified by their long and thick fur unlike other gorilla species, their unique prints on the noise and the male mountain gorilla weighs twice than that of the female mountain gorilla.
Like all other gorillas, they feature dark brown eyes surrounded by black ring around the iris. They weigh 220kg(490lb) with a height of 1.9m(6ft). The adult males are called silverbacks because of gray or silver colored hair which develops on their back.
The tallest silverback verified was 1.94m, mountain gorilla is primarily earthly; however, it will also climb to the branches of the tree if there are strong enough to carry their weight.
- Mountain Gorilla Life Cycle;
An interesting statistic, mountain gorillas and humans are 98% naturally identical, the females become sexually mature at 7-8 years of age and the male tend to mature later than the females.
The female gorillas approach their breeding stage approximately about 10years and they usually give birth after a period of 4-5 years (8-9 estimated period of gestation). Thus, mountain gorillas can live up to 54years of age.
- Mountain Gorilla Habitat and Diet;
In Uganda there are two places where we can find mountain gorillas and these include; Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga gorilla park. In Bwindi impenetrable national park is where most of the largest mountain gorilla populations with over 400 are found.
Due to its sunshade of the trees making it dark within the forest, therefore Bwindi is known as the place of darkness. Likely, these Gentle Giants feed on leaves, shoots and stems (85.8%) of 142 plant species, flowers (2.3%), roots (3.3%), fruits (1.7%), and also, they feed on bark (6.9%) as well as small invertebrates (0.1%).
The adult male mountain gorilla feed up to 34kg (75lb) whereas a female one can eat up to 34kg (40lb).
- Mountain Gorilla Social Structure;
In the Virunga Mountain Gorillas, the usual length of habitation for a dominant silverback is 4.7 years. 61% of groups are composed of one adult male and a number of females and 36% comprehends more than one adult male.
These great apes live in group of 30 members together with females and young ones. The leaders and aged mountain gorillas are known as the silverbacks which are in charge of all activities of the family and caring about the children.
Silverbacks also determine the group’s movement and it protects the family from any harm or threat from human, predators, leopards and other gorillas. He is a center of attention during the resting session.
Once a dominant silverback dies, the family maybe ruthlessly interrupted unless it appoints some other male silverback to take over the responsibility he had. At times this may lead the family members to spilt and move to other unrelated families.
- Mountain Gorilla Behavior;
Even if mountain gorillas are strong and powerful, many people often ask if they are dangerous. Well to answer that question, mountain gorillas are usually gentle and shy.
Mountain gorillas also do have the same sensation as human and when they get hurt, they cry and also during happy times they laugh. What a marvelous experience to see!
These Gentle Giants are very peaceful animals if not disturbed or tampered; they can lose control and attack if tourists interrupt their peaceful moment.
Whenever tourists are in their presence, they are advised to keep a reasonable distance away from them and not to provoke them by any means like beating in chest like them. Use of flash lights is also not allowed.
- Mountain Gorilla Vocalization;
Gorillas use several sounds to communicate with others like for instance, they have 25 distinct vocalizations which are recognized and they can be used during social interactions while disciplining themselves.
The roars and screams indicate signal and warning signs and produced mostly by silverbacks. Then when they are in relaxation and feeding time, there is a sound of deep, rumbling hiccups that suggest contentment and are heard repeatedly.
- Mountain Gorilla Fears;
Mountain gorillas appear to be naturally afraid of certain insects and reptiles. For reasons unknown, infants whose behavior is to hunt anything that moves, will go out of their way to avoid chameleon and other reptiles. They are also afraid of water unless when they can cross streams without getting wet.
- Mountain Gorillas Like Routine;
Unlike other gorillas, mountain gorillas have a unique practice of keeping their daily routine of waking up early in the morning at 6:00am to start looking for larger quantities of plants to eat. Unless if the weather is cold, they can rest a bit but again they wake up and search for food again till 6pm at night.
The mountain gorillas like sleeping at midday. Mountain gorillas rarely drink water because they get much of their water from the plants they feed on.
- Mountain Gorilla Use Tools;
Mountain gorillas are very unique and intelligent mammals like for example those who have been habituated are taught sign languages and how to communicate with humans, they learn so quickly in such a way that they make their lives easier. They will use sticks and branches to abstract insects from the ground or hollow trees.
They will also use leaves, twigs and vines to make beds for their babies and themselves when they sleep which is really magical and uncommon practice to other gorillas.
Mountain gorillas also use branches to rescue youngsters who have gotten stuck in the vines and also helping them to cross streams and creeks by using logs. This is mostly done by the silverback whereby they also help to remove snares from the young ones.
- Mountain Gorillas are Vulnerable to Human Diseases;
Mountain gorillas are 98% naturally identical to humans, so it is easy for them to contract with human diseases like flu and cough plus many other communicable diseases within a short period of time if not distanced from tourists.
That’s why tourists are encouraged while visiting the gorilla families to have a limited number of people like 8 members and they are advised to spend with gorillas only 1hr a day.
Therefore, with all that in mind, tourists who are going for a gorilla safari in Uganda, Rwanda and democratic republic of Congo should be vigilant and clearly take note of the mountain gorilla characteristics for an incredible Gorilla Trekking safari experience.