Mountain Gorillas; Endangered Gorilla Facts, Habitat, Diet, Images and Videos
Take a peek into the life of Mountain Gorillas! Explore everything from Mountain Gorilla size and lifespan to threats and ongoing conservation efforts.
Mountain Gorillas are a few most impressive creatures in the world. Mountain gorillas are a major reason for most visits in Africa and a face to face encounter with them in their natural habitat is undoubtedly a life changing experience.
What is a Mountain Gorilla?
A mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) is a great ape and a sub-species of the Eastern gorilla. Mountain gorillas are among the largest living primates in the world and the most sought-after creatures by majority of tourists on African safari.
They have muscular arms, massive chests and broad hands, feet with longer hair but shorter arms than their cousins- the Eastern Lowland gorillas in Congo.
Mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) have thick black hair that plays an important part in protecting them during cold weather.
Mountain gorillas/Gorilla beringei beringei live in only 2 isolated rain-forests of Central-Eastern Africa between altitude 8000 and 13000 feet. Not more than 1063 of these large apes are left on earth and they live in only Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Half of the 1080 mountain gorillas can be explored while on gorilla safaris in the Virunga Region that is Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Southwestern Uganda, Volcanoes National Park – Northwestern Rwanda and Virunga National Park- Eastern D.R. Congo.
More than 450 of 1080 mountain gorilla population on earth live in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Southwestern Uganda.
Since 1902 when mountain gorillas were discovered, they still encounter severe threats including habitat loss, infectious diseases, poaching, war etc. Thanks to conservation efforts to gradual increase in the number of these unique species.
Almost 98% of mountain gorilla DNA is similar to that of humans and this can be witnessed while on gorilla trekking particularly during the one hour of magical encounter. They are listed on the IUCN RED List as “Endangered” species in the world.
Weight and size: mountain gorillas weigh 135-220kgs/300-485pounds, 1-2m tall about 4-6ft. In terms of life span, mountain gorillas can live up to 40-50 years and they have gestation period of 8.5months.
Where to see Mountain Gorillas in Uganda?
Mountain Gorilla Habitat
Uganda is one of the only 3 countries world over where mountain gorillas live and boasts of 2 destinations for tourists on gorilla trekking safari experience.
The 2 National Parks in Uganda to visit for gorilla trekking include Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
What Do Mountain Gorillas Eat?
Mountain Gorilla Diet
Mountain Gorillas are largely vegetarian and their diet consists mostly of leaves, shoots and stems off plants. Mountain gorilla diet is also comprised of ants, larvae, snails, roots, barks and rotting wood to gain proteins and sodium.
Gorillas consume on 142 plant species and that is why they survive in such extreme conditions, they are always aware of which plant species will provide them with the most nutrition.
Mountain gorillas spend most of the day time eating and it is estimated that, an adult male mountain gorilla can consume up to 35kgs a day where as a female can consume about the half of that.
Because mountain gorilla diet is largely vegetables, they rarely drink as for the leaves and stems store specific amount of water.
How many Mountain Gorillas are left?
Mountain Gorilla Population
The last mountain gorilla census found 1,063 gorillas. The numbers keep on changing though and as of 2023, the population of mountain gorillas is estimated somewhere at 1,080 as there has been an increase in number of gorillas since the last census.
The gentle giants are no longer on risk of extinction as it was a decade ago but, they are still threatened and if their conservation is not handled with excellence, we may loose them.
The conservation process started in the early 1970s with Dian Fossey and mountain gorillas in Rwanda but, the socio-economic and political atmosphere of the time couldn’t favor the efforts.
In 1991, an International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP) was formed and a Gorilla Conservation Agreement between Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo was signed to protect protect the mountain gorillas.
This agreement helped promote ecotourism, Gorilla Trekking Safaris which serves as an primary source of income to fund conservation process. It was through the same agreement that the Batwa people had to be relocated from the forests that hosted these rare primates.
Why is the Mountain Gorilla Endangered?
Mountain gorillas are endangered due to human activities such as encroachment and wars that lead to habitat loss and social interference. Poaching is also a major threat to the existence of the giant apes.
To fight off poachers, Uganda established anti-poaching initiatives with dedicated armed force, rangers who work closely with the communities around the parks to ensure that no one enter the gorilla habitat to cause any trouble.
The Batwa People
Who are the Batwa and What is their Relationship with the Mountain Gorillas?
The Batwa people/pygmies are an indigenous people who used to share habitat with the mountain gorillas before being relocated. The Batwa are nomadic hunter-gatherers, once forest dwellers who also endangered as their population is alarming.
The Gorilla Conservation Program had to see Batwa vacate their original habitat, the forests to give mountain gorillas enough space to live in. It also reduced on competition for food and resources between the primates and the Batwa.
Batwa currently live on the outskirts of the forests and are part of the rehabilitation program that is attached to gorilla conservation. When you go on a gorilla safari, part of the money you spend is used on community development where the Batwa people stay.
Read our detailed article about the Batwa People.
What is Gorilla Trekking?
Gorilla trekking is an eco-friendly adventure to encounter mountain gorillas in their natural habitat on foot. Gorilla trekking is organized differently from other Uganda safaris as it requires one to acquire a gorilla permit in order to be granted access to gorilla parks.
Uganda Gorilla Trekking Safaris happens in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Uganda boasts of 5 locations where tourists on gorilla tour can start their treks to see mountain gorillas and they include Rushaga, Nkuringo, Ruhija and Buhoma for Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Ntebeko in Mgahinga National Park.
Mountain Gorilla trekking in Rwanda and D.R. Congo are carried out in Volcanoes National Park and Virunga National Park respectively.
Gorilla trekking is also best understood as on foot-experience and involves tourists navigating via the natural vegetation not only to see gorillas but also to have in-depth exploration about their daily behaviors.
Trekking to view mountain gorillas starts with briefing about guidelines/rules/regulations and maximum of 8 visitors are allowed to track a habituated gorilla family.
Best Gorilla Trekking Safaris in Uganda
3 Days Gorilla Trekking package is a short Uganda gorilla safari to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park focusing on Mountain Gorilla treks and Batwa cultural experience…
1 Day Gorilla Trekking Uganda is a special gorilla safari package for primates lovers eager to trek Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi but have limited time and must be already in Kigali…
7 Days Luxury Safari Uganda is an ultimate wildlife and gorilla safari experience for travelers who prefer the highest level of service & attention to detail. We cruise in high-end…
Mountain gorilla trekking is costly- yes but it is worth the monies, time and energies. There are many reasons why gorilla trekking is regarded as “expensive” but most importantly, it is expensive due to the high cost for conserving mountain gorillas.
There is a lot that is involved to ensure that these endangered apes thrive. The money paid for gorilla trekking part of which is used for paying staff, researchers, guides, vet doctors etc.
Mountain gorilla permits in Uganda cost foreign non-residents $ 700, foreign residents $ 600 and East Africa citizens Uganda shillings 250,000. In Rwanda, mountain gorilla permits are available for booking at USD 1500 per person; in D.R. Congo USD 450.
Gorilla permits are open for booking through a ground operator and for this case, you don’t need to look any further than Maranatha Tours and Travel or park authorities and essentially, we encourage visitors to have their permits booked early 2-4 months prior the date for gorilla trekking
Tracking mountain gorillas in Uganda or Rwanda is very safe. Security in Uganda and Rwanda has improved compared to the 70s and interestingly, while on a trek to see mountain gorillas visitors are accompanied by armed park guides or rangers.
Briefing about guidelines for gorilla trekking is always done before the actual trek starts and besides treks are conducted in already habituated gorilla families.
To be considered eligible to track mountain gorillas in Uganda, a visitor should be 15 years and above. Gorilla trekking is an inclusive adventure in that even persons with disability or elderly have opportunity to see mountain gorillas.