13 Facts About Mountain Gorillas in Africa

13 Facts About Mountain Gorillas in Africa are those key factors and features that a traveler must know about these gentle endangered giants. Africa is the only habitat of mountain gorillas in the entire world. These unique and endangered primate species are a major tourist attraction on the African Continent. Visitors who wish to see mountain gorillas in the wild will have to travel to either Uganda, Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is because there are only 3 countries in the world, which shelter the remaining population of Mountain Gorillas. 

Trekking mountain gorillas in Africa is such a unique, adventurous and exciting experience that only comes once in a life. So for those interested in embarking on a gorilla trekking safari to either Uganda, Rwanda or Congo, here are 13 facts that you should know about mountain gorillas in Africa;

13 Facts About Mountain Gorillas in Africa
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  1. What are Mountain Gorillas?: Mountain Gorillas in Africa are also known as ‘gorilla beringei beringei’ or ‘western gorillas.’ They are known to be the largest of the primate species in the world. Mountain gorillas are one of the two subspecies of the eastern gorilla, also known as ‘gorilla beringei’. The other subspecies of the eastern gorilla is the eastern lowland gorilla; which inhabits the dense forests of central and western countries of Africa. Mountain gorillas, just like other primate species, are herbivorous animals.
  2. The physical description of a Mountain gorilla: Of all the 13 facts about mountain gorillas in Africa, one should at least know this Mountain gorilla in Africa are about 1-2 meters tall, which means that they can reach a height of about 4-6 feet. They are hairy primates, with longer hair and shorter arms as compared to the eastern lowland gorillas. Mountain gorillas have a huge/ broad chest and muscular arms, with thick black hair.
  3. The social lifestyle of mountain gorillas in Africa: Generally, mountain gorillas are social mammals. They live in groups of about 11-30 members, led by a dominant silverback. However, small gorilla groups/families can have between 5-10 members. A silverback gorilla is responsible for taking care of each and every member of its group. The silverback protects its members from both external and internal threats such as human beings and male gorillas from other groups. In cases of internal threats, the silverback gorilla protects all the infants and females in the group from being attached by mischievous adult males in the same group. Usually, it is only the silverback gorilla that gets to mate with the females in his group; therefore he will fight other male gorillas in his group as a way preventing them from mating with the female gorillas. It is a way of making his territory and rights over the female gorillas in his group. Internal flights between mountain gorillas within a group, take place in a quest for leadership. A silverback will fight with another adult male gorilla, and this fight will see the victor taking the position of dominant male gorilla and leader of the group. Mountain gorillas in Africa are generally quiet and peaceful animals. They never sleep in the same place for two consecutive nights, and this is mainly because they are always on the move looking for food. Tourists trekking mountain gorillas in Africa will always see these gorillas grooming each other. Grooming among gorillas is important, and is a way of bonding with each other.
  4. The reproductive life of mountain gorillas: Female mountain gorillas have an average gestation period of 257 days, which is about 9months. Female gorillas become sexually active at the age of 7 or 8 years, and they start reproducing starting when they are 10 years and above. When a female gorilla starts breeding, she can give birth to one or two baby gorillas; although it is quite rare for gorillas to give birth to twins. There are few gorillas groups in Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo, with twin infant gorillas. Usually, most twin baby gorillas die at birth or a few weeks after birth. When a baby gorilla dies, its mother usually remains to carry it for some time until she finally abandons the infant’s lifeless body. A female mountain gorilla often gives birth to one baby every 4-6 years and only three or four babies over her entire lifetime. Male gorillas sexually mature at a later age as compared to females. The slow rate of reproduction in mountain gorillas greatly affects their population numbers. This is what makes it quite difficult for these species to quickly increase their numbers, following the drastic decline in their population from centuries ago. Mountain gorillas were first listed as a critically endangered species in 1996, under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, in November 2018, it was announced that these species of gorillas are no longer critically endangered. This is all thanks to the conservation efforts of various wildlife organizations that have seen a tremendous increase in the number of mountain gorillas.
  5. Where do mountain gorillas live in Africa?: Mountain gorillas or rather western gorillas live in the dense, tropical rainforests of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo ONLY. Therefore, any tourist who wishes to see mountain gorillas in the wild will have to pay for a gorilla trekking tour in either of the above-mentioned countries. In Uganda, tourists can see mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park; while in Rwanda, visitors can find mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. Mountain gorillas also live in the tropical rainforests in Virunga National Park in DRC.
  6. How much do mountain gorillas weigh in Africa?: Mountain gorillas are the world’s largest primates, with males weighing around 120 – 220kg, which is about 260-485 pounds. Females can weigh from 68-113kg, which is between 150-250 pounds. A fully grown adult male mountain gorilla can weigh over 136kg, with a silverback weighing about 195-220kg. A fully grown female mountain gorilla can weigh from 86-113kg. A newly born gorilla can weigh from 3-5 pounds and are usually referred to as infants. Mountain gorillas live in groups/ families, which are led by an adult, dominant male gorilla called a Silverback. Silverback gorillas usually protect the members of the group, especially the female gorillas and infants as well.
  7. What is the life span of mountain gorillas in Africa?: This is one of the most fascinating 13 facts about mountain gorillas in Africa. When in the wild, mountain gorillas can live for 40 to 50 years; however, while living in captivity such as a zoo, their lifespan can reach up to 60 years. The oldest western gorilla ever recorded alive was a female gorilla aged 60 years, and died in 2017 at the Columbus Zoo.
  8. What do mountain gorillas in Africa eat?: Mountain gorillas are majorly herbivorous animals. Their diet mainly comprises plant stems, leaves, fruits, flowers, and bamboo shoots. Mountain gorillas can eat half of their body weight, which is about 50 pounds of leafy foods per day. Their diet also consists of insects, snails, and ants; thus making them partially omnivorous mammals.
  9. How similar is a mountain gorilla to a Human Being?: Scientific research has proven that mountain gorillas genetically share 98% of their DNA with human beings. Therefore, it is no surprise that mountain gorillas can display human-like characteristics and emotions such as; remorse, happiness, and even sadness. Mountain gorillas can also disease similar to those that affect human beings such as; flu, cough, Ebola as well as Arthritis, which affects their joints, fingers, hands, and feet. Just like humans, mountain gorillas also suffer from loss of teeth at an old age. This affects their normal feeding routine, as it becomes difficult for the gorilla to eat at a normal pace like the others. Mountain gorillas also mourn the loss of a member, and can be seen gathering around the corpse of a dead gorilla.
  10. How do mountain gorillas communicate with each other?: Mountain gorillas in Africa communicate with each other using different sounds and gestures such as; hooting, screaming, barking, laughing, growling, charging, belching, signing, yawning, chest-beating among others. Each distinct sound that a gorilla makes has its own meaning; for instance, a gorilla charges as a warning sign of a threat. The American primatologist and conservationist, Dian Fossey, identified 17 different sounds made by mountain gorillas.
  11. What are the major threats to mountain gorilla populations in Africa?: There are quite a number of threats affecting the population of mountain gorillas in Africa, and these include; diseases like Ebola, flu, and Tuberculosis among others. Mountain gorilla populations are also threatened by poachers who hunt down these gorillas for their bushmeat, so as to meet its high demand on the black market. Another major threat to mountain gorilla populations in Africa is the loss of their habitat. The continuous destruction of rainforests for timber, mining mineral ores, gas and create land for farming activities; has created a negative impact on the numbers of mountain gorillas in Africa. Statistics have shown that only 17% of the total population of mountain gorillas currently lives in protected areas like national parks and forest reserves in Africa. Therefore, mountain gorilla groups living outside these protected areas are under a great threat, as their habitat is constantly being encroached on.
  12. How many mountain gorillas are left in Africa?: The current population of mountain gorillas in Africa is estimated to be over 1004 individuals, according to statistics of the African Wildlife Foundation. This number of mountain gorillas can be found in the Virunga Massif, with Uganda alone said to have half of the total population of mountain gorillas in Africa.
  13. What to do when in the presence of mountain gorillas?: This is one of the key 13 facts about mountain gorillas. Since mountain gorillas share 98% DNA with humans, this means that they also experience emotions like human beings such as; happiness, irritation, fear, and anger. Therefore, tourists who are trekking mountain gorillas in Africa should follow this set of guidelines while in the presence of mountain gorillas;
  • Maintain a distance of 7 meters away from the gorillas.
  • Limit your movements while in the presence of the gorillas.
  • Do not maintain eye contact with the gorillas especially the silverbacks.
  • Do not trek gorillas if you have airborne diseases like flu and cough.
  • Always wash your hands before and after spending time with mountain gorillas.
  • Keep your voice down when in the presence of mountain gorillas.
  • Do not eat, drink or even smoke in the presence of the gorillas. Also, do not attempt to feed the gorillas.
  • Do not use the flash on your camera or phone when taking pictures of the gorillas.
  • Always stay calm when a gorilla charges at you; keep your head down and lie on the ground. Panicking will just worsen the situation.
13 Facts About Mountain Gorillas in Africa
13 Facts About Mountain Gorillas in Africa

Mountain gorillas in Africa are such a wonderful sight to see. Anyone who wishes to see these majestic primates in the world should book a gorilla trekking safari with us and get to enjoy the experience of a lifetime!

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