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Mountain Gorillas

Mountain Gorillas In Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park’s most famous residents are mountain gorillas which number around 459 (almost half of the world’s population) split across 20 families; with 13 solitary individuals according to the most recent survey, undertaken in 2018.  The park has 19 habituated gorillas families set for Uganda gorilla trekking safari experiences.

Mountain gorillas are among the earth’s rarest and most majestic creatures. They are very special creatures and before you travel to Uganda to see them, you should research and learn as much as you can about them.

Below are some of the mountain gorilla facts you should know as you plan to go gorilla trekking in Uganda.

 What Is A Mountain Gorilla?

  • Scientifically, the mountain gorilla is known as Gorilla beringei beringei. It is one of the two subspecies of the eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei).
  • Mountain gorillas are the biggest and most powerful living primates and also our closest relatives after chimpanzees and bonobos, sharing about 98% of our DNA.
  • As their name suggests, they live in the forested mountains of East-Central Africa at elevations between 2438 and 3962 meters. At this elevation, it is not unusual for the temperature to drop below freezing at night.
  • Therefore these great apes have several adaptations that help them survive in their environment. And one of them is their long, thick coats which help to keep them warm.
  • They do not survive in captivity. The gorillas you’ve encountered in zoos are most likely from the lowlands of western Africa.
  • Male mountain gorillas usually weigh 195-220 kg with an upright standing height of 168 cm. Females are a bit more petite, weighing about 100 kilograms and standing 140cm feet tall.
  • They live primarily on the ground but will climb sturdy trees in pursuit of food. Mountain gorillas live for 35 – 40 years, in troops with home ranges that vary from three to 15 km².
  • They typically move only about 500 meters per day, due to the mountainous terrain and readily available food.
  • Because of their immense size and obvious extraordinary physical strength that appear intimidating, many travelers on Uganda gorilla tours to Bwindi often wonder if Uganda gorillas are aggressive or dangerous. The good news is, these massive apes are gentle giants and very shy.
  • However, when disturbed and threatened they can roar, bark, or hoot very loudly. They can also stand upright and beat their chests, throw things, and even make aggressive charges. Also, a mother gorilla will fight to the death if she feels her baby is threatened.

Why Are Mountain Gorillas Famous?

  • Mountain gorillas were made famous by the legendary Diani Fossey. The incredible work that she did in Virunga Mountains, as well as her unsolved murder, captured the West’s imagination.
  • This accounts for a good deal of the mountain gorilla’s popularity as a tourist attraction – they are probably the most photographed apes in the world.

 Do Mountain Gorillas Live In Families?

  • Mountain gorillas are highly sociable creatures, living in family troops of anything from 5 to 50 individuals. A gorilla family typically consists of one dormant male silverback (the male’s back turns silver when he reaches sexual maturity at about 13 years old), a few adult females, and their offspring of various ages.
  • Some troops will have more than one mature male, but only one leader/alpha male. The subordinate male (often called a ‘blackback’, and typically 8 – 12 years old) plays a backup role and will assume the leadership role if the silverback dies.
  • Both males and females tend to emigrate from their natal groups, with females leaving at an earlier age than males.
  • The silverback (the head of the family) – makes all the family decisions, mediates conflicts, determines the movements of the group between feeding and resting/sleeping sites, and takes responsibility for the safety and well-being of the family.
  • A silverback will start to form his family at about 15 years of age, most normally by attracting young sexually mature females from other families. He may continue to lead the group well into his 40s.

How Do Mountain Gorillas Communicate?

Mountain gorillas use a variety of distinct vocalizations to communicate within their densely-forested home, these include;

  • Grunts and bark while traveling,
  • Screams and roars to signal alarm or warning and
  • Rumbling belches of contentment during feeding and resting periods.

How Do Mountain Gorillas Sleep?

  • Mountain gorillas make nests on the ground, for daytime resting and for sleeping at night. The nests are made of a loose pile of branches and leaves.
  • Babies sleep with their mothers and start building their own nests when they are about three years old.

 What Do Mountain Gorillas Eat?

  • Mountain gorillas are primarily vegetarian, eating leaves, stems, piths, and shoots, with fruit making up a small part of their diet.
  • Mountain gorillas’ only true preys are insects such as termites and ants which they eat to supplement their diet.
  • Adult males can eat up to 34kg of vegetation a day, while a female can eat as much as 18kg.

Reproduction

  • Mountain gorillas mate year-round, once they reach sexual maturity, which is at the age of 10 to 12 years for females and 11 to 13 years for males.
  • The gestation period lasts 8.5 months, and females can give birth every four years. Baby gorillas are, like humans, vulnerable and dependent on their mothers for survival.
  • Male gorillas are not active in caring for the young (unless the mother dies), but they do play a role in socializing them with other youngsters and protecting them from aggression within the group.
  • Infants remain in contact with their mothers for the first five months, sleeping in the same nest and suckling at least once per hour during that time.
  • After five months, infants start moving away from their mothers, gradually gaining independence. By the third year, juveniles are weaned and sleeping in separate nests from their mothers.

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