This is the largest number of mountain gorillas ever recorded! The number of the mountain gorillas in the Virunga massif on 31st May 2018 was announced to have increased from the previous 480 to 604. This is great news for the Virunga massif and shows great conservation strategies from the trans-boundary protected area authorities of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The total number of mountain gorillas now surpass 1000! Including the 400 gorillas (2011 census) in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National park. This means more gorilla encounters for tourists on Uganda gorilla safaris or those who take either gorilla safaris to Rwanda or gorilla safaris in Congo.
Realities about Mountain Gorillas
The mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) are one of nature’s largest primates that reside in high steep mountain forests of up to 8000 – 13,000ft (1,500m-4000m), the same height a sky diver would jump out of a plane. At this height temperatures drop below freezing point so these gorillas have thicker longer beautiful fur than other gorillas to keep them warm. The mountain gorillas are in four of Africa’s different national parks three in the Virunga massif of Rwanda (land of a thousand hills), Uganda (pearl of Africa) and Congo, the other one is in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
By surviving at this height, the mountain gorillas are unique creatures and just like human beings they do have a number of unique features. The nose print of the gorilla is unique to each individual gorilla just the same way as the human finger print is unique to each individual. Gorillas share over 98% of their DNA with humans.
Mountain gorillas are social beings and travel in groups of about 5 to as many as 40 consisting of several younger males, adult and juvenile females and infants. Each individual group always has the head of the group known as the silver back. Why call it a silver back? The idea is because of the silver stripes that grow on their backs when they mature. The silver hair can be compared to the grey hair that humans develop when they grow older.
Mountain gorillas are not territorial but the silver back will fight to protect a group or family of the gorillas it heads. The group leader will charge at the threat by beating their chests and letting out angry grunts and roars. Mothers always fight to their best for their babies’ protection. Silver backs maintain order and decide all activities within their group, schedule feeding trips, resting time and travel as they father the younger gorillas in the group.
Just like humans still, mountain gorillas do contract human diseases, surprisingly even just a common cold could kill a mountain gorilla. It has become the most endangered type of gorilla currently limited to Africa’s three national parks with only up to 880 left in the wild. This is why tourists on Rwanda gorilla safaris need to follow the gorilla trekking rules by not visiting the gorillas when they are sick.
Mountain gorillas are actually shy just like they are strong, however, when threatened they become aggressive. A mountain gorilla will never chase you when you are facing and looking directly into its eyes.
Females have strong long-term relationships with males but though not with females, this is in some way common in humans too.
How Gorillas Reproduce
Female gorillas can produce starting by the age of 10. They produce one or two babies at a time and give birth after 8.5 months of pregnancy. They give birth to between two to six offspring in a life time.
Baby gorillas weigh about 1.8kg(41lb) at birth with non coordination and weak as human babies. Before 4 years of age they get around by clinging on their mothers’ back. At 3.5 years they are completely weaned from their mothers and start to feed on older mountain gorilla food like the plants, leaves and stems. The fully-grown male mountain gorillas weigh 180kg (400lb) and the females weigh half the weight about 90kg(200lb).
Can you tell between a male and female mountain gorilla?
Male mountain gorillas are distinguished from the females by the crest of fur that the males have on their heads.
The largest mountain gorilla group/family ever studied is in Rwanda encountered during Rwanda gorilla trekking safaris with 41 members. This group is the hardest to trek as they range high into the mountains of Volcanoes National park. Rwanda safaris to trek this group should be done by the physically fit, but any way hiking is therapy so try it out.