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Male mountain gorillas weigh between 300 and 485 pounds and stand between 4 to 6 feet tall, making them among the largest and most powerful primates on the planet. PHOTO/UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine

Both Cross River gorillas and Western Lowland gorillas belong to the western gorilla species, which is the most endangered gorilla species and the only one that can be found in Uganda.

The world’s gorillas are divided into two species: the eastern and western gorillas. Each of them has two subspecies. 

Mountain gorillas and Eastern Lowland gorillas make up the eastern gorilla species. The Cross River gorilla and the Western Lowland gorilla are both members of the western gorilla species. Both species can be found in Africa’s tropical and subtropical regions.

On the Virunga Mountain slopes in Mgahinga National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, more than half of the world’s mountain gorilla population can be found. 

This is the most endangered gorilla species, and it is the only one that can be found in Uganda. It is a subspecies of the Eastern gorilla that can only be found in the rainforests of east-central Africa. 

They exclusively live in the mountains, between 8,000 to 13,000 feet in height.

According to a recent publication (2018), there are just about 1,000 mountain gorillas left on the planet. 

The Virunga Mountains located along the northern border of Rwanda, part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Uganda are a major habitat to some of the mountain gorilla community. 

The other half roams Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest’s montane jungle floors.

There are only two isolated groups of mountain gorillas in east-central Africa. One is found in the Virunga Volcanoes, a cross-border region spanning three forest reserves in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

The other lives in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, which extends to Sarambwe Nature Reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

These gentle giants can only be found in high-altitude montane and bamboo forests. These high areas range from 1,400 to 3,800 metres above sea level.

Human Relationship

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Gorillas share 98% of their DNA with humans, so even exposure to a common cold can be harmful to them. PHOTO/QENP

Mountain gorillas share 98% of their DNA with humans, which means that exposure to human ailments, even a common cold, can be harmful to gorillas. 

They are genetically identical to humans but lack the requisite immunity to common human diseases.

Gorilla tourism is mostly responsible for these animals’ ability to survive extinction in the first place.

As a result, conservationists and governments have put in place strict protocols to prevent the introduction of human diseases to these priceless species. 

Gorilla habituation, the limited number of visitors, staying at least 10 metres away from them, and wearing a facemask are just a few of the measures in place.

Size

Mountain gorillas are the largest and most powerful primates on the planet. A male mountain gorilla weighs between 300 and 485 pounds and stands between 4 and 6 feet tall.

Diet

Mountain gorillas eat mostly roots, shoots, fruit, wild celery, tree bark and pulp, as they are vegetarians. The troops find plenty of food for their vegetarian diet in the lush woodlands of central and east Africa.

They eat leaves and shoots for roughly a quarter of the day, although they have also been observed consuming snails, ants, and bark, which is a good source of salt.

Nightlife

Mountain gorilla groups sleep together at night in ground nests or foliage-covered trees. Infants share their mothers’ nests, ensuring that they are kept safe and warm.

A Mountain Gorilla’s Social Life

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Ugandan mountain gorillas live and travel in groups of between five to thirty individuals.

The majority of mountain gorillas live in stable family groups known as troops or bands of 10–40 individuals. Within each troop, there is one dominant male (dubbed a silverback) and numerous females.

The Silverback’s duties include guarding his family against intruders and organising group activities such as feeding, nesting on leaves, and moving around in a 0.75-to-16-square-mile home range.

Those who dare to challenge an alpha male are likely to be intimidated by remarkable displays of physical strength. He can rise, throw items, charge aggressively, and pound his big chest while barking tremendous hoots or erupting in a terrifying scream.

Mountain gorillas are normally peaceful and nonaggressive unless someone or something threatens them, despite these demonstrations and the animals’ obvious physical might.

Both males and females in the gorilla group look after their babies, cuddling, carrying, and playing with them. 

Communication

Gorillas in captivity have shown a high level of intelligence and have even learnt basic human sign language. Mountain gorillas have been documented using 16 different forms of communication calls, according to primatologists.

When mountain gorillas are somewhat disturbed or intrigued, they use brief barks. When faced with rivals, male gorillas beat their chests, strut with rigid legs, and make vocalisations like hoots or roars to frighten rivals.

Expected Life Expectancy

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The life expectancy of a mountain gorilla is between 40 and 50 years. FILE PHOTO/Silverbacks

Mountain gorillas can live up to 35 or 50 years in the wild.

Infant gorillas are classified as infants until they reach the age of three and a half years and adults after that.

‘Blackbacks’ are males aged 8 to 12 years. They then acquire a silver area of hair across their back and hips starting at the age of 12, garnering them the nickname ‘silverback.’

Reproduction

After a nearly nine-month pregnancy, female gorillas give birth to one child.

Newborns, unlike their enormous parents, are small, weighing about four pounds and able to cling solely to their moms’ fur. From the time they are four months old until they are two or three years old, these babies ride on their mothers’ backs.

Young gorillas, aged three to six years old, are adorable to see on a gorilla trekking adventure because their cute activities remind us of toddlers. Climbing trees, chasing one other, and dangling from branches occupy a large portion of their day.

Is This Species Critically Endangered?

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As mountain gorilla populations increased, their status was changed from “critically endangered” to “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). PHOTO/THE GUARDIAN

Mountain gorillas’ conservation status was changed from “critically endangered” to “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2008, as their numbers increased.

Scientists warn, however, that they might swiftly revert to critically endangered status if conservation efforts, which are mainly subsidised by gorilla trekking, are not given the attention they need.

Conservationists, on the other hand, believe the mountain gorilla conservation narrative to be one of the most successful in natural history.

Mountain gorillas: How to See Them and Where to See Them

On a primate jungle safari known as Gorilla Trekking, tourists can view mountain gorillas.

All-inclusive gorilla trekking trips are regularly organised by tour companies (such as Nkuringo Safaris), who take care of all the groundwork, such as processing the trekking permit and arranging lodging and transportation. 

Some tourists, on the other hand, elected to go through the process on their own.

Gorilla trekking expeditions often depart from Entebbe (Uganda’s only international airport) and travel southwest into the highland rainforests of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga National Park, which are located on the border with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

You can choose to visit Mgahinga National Park to see the gentle giants. Bwindi, on the other hand, is a superior choice because it has more than four sectors or trailheads, each with excellent lodging alternatives.

What to take for a gorilla trip

Hiking boots, warm gloves, long sleeves, a waterproof backpack (because it can rain at any time), a tracking permit, and your cameras should be on your packing list if you want to explore the African jungle in style.

Seeing a mountain gorilla is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that is well worth the money.

Last but not least, for an all-inclusive tour experience in Uganda, view our guide to Murchison Falls National ParkLake Mburo National Park and Semuliki National Park.