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The African Mountain Gorilla – Species Overview and Insights

The mountain gorilla is one of the world’s most sought-after primates.

This species of gorilla can only be found in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Virunga National Park in Congo, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.

Mountain gorillas have fur on their bodies that helps them live in cold temperatures.

They live at elevations of 2200-4300 meters above sea level. Gorillas are terrestrial and quadrupedal and can run bipedally.

They move by knuckle-walking, with their arms supporting their body weight.

Mountain Gorilla

Uganda gorilla trekking experiences take place in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.

Gorilla trekking Rwanda experiences take place in Volcanoes National Park, whereas Congo gorilla trekking tours take place in Virunga National Park and Kahuzi-Biega National Park.

Adult male gorillas are called Silverbacks because of the grey fur they develop on their backs with age.

They can climb trees to pick fruits if the branches can support their body weight.

Their arms are longer than their legs, just like chimpanzees.

Mountain Gorilla Scientific Name

The scientific name of mountain gorillas is Gorilla Beringei Beringei.

Mountain gorillas are believed to be descendants of apes and ancestral monkeys that lived in Arabia and Africa 24 to 34 million years ago.

They were first referred to as Troglodytes in 1847 and then later named gorillas in 1852.

Male gorillas have a mean weight of 195 kg and a height of 168 cm, while female gorillas have a mean weight of 100 kg and a height of 140 cm.

The tallest gorilla ever recorded was 1.9 meters tall, 219 kilograms, and had an arm span of 2.7 meters.

The heaviest silverback recorded was shot in Ambam, Cameroon, weighing 267 kg.

Mountain Gorilla Behavior

We have seen so many kinds of gorilla adaptations. Gorillas sleep in nests made of vegetation.

These nests are constructed every evening. Gorillas are always active from 6 am to 6 pm daily as they feed on leaves, roots, fruits, bark, stems, and flowers, making them primarily herbivores.

A female mountain gorilla can eat up to 18 kgs of vegetation a day, while a male can eat up to 34 kgs.

Mountain gorilla groups are always dominated by a silverback that determines the group’s activities.

When the young male gorillas grow, they leave their natal groups to join other male lone silverbacks to attract females in their group or they form their own.

The female gorillas always move to other groups or join a lone silverback to form their own family.

The dominating silverback always fights for his group whenever it’s attacked by leopards, poachers, or other gorillas, even at the expense of their life.

If the dominating silverback dies, a male silverback may rule the group, or another lone male can join the group if there’s no male silverback to rule at the moment.

This new silverback will kill all the infant males so that he has no threat to his throne.

Gorillas are strong and aggressive, especially when there’s danger or a challenge.

Outside these two scenarios, gorillas are always gentle. In case of a conflict, gorillas will thump the ground, tear vegetation, beat their chests, display symbolic eating, hoot, kick, run sideways, and so forth.

For unknown reasons, gorillas are said to be afraid of caterpillars and chameleons.

Mountain Gorilla Trekking & Habituation

According to Wikipedia, mountain gorillas live in groups of 5-30 individuals led by a dominant silverback.

Female gorillas give birth to an infant after a period of 8-9 months.

Just like human babies, gorilla infants only weigh about 4 pounds and can only cling to their mother’s backs from 4 months to 3 years of age.

Female gorillas can start producing at the age of ten years and can give birth to 2-6 offspring in a lifetime.

Mountain gorillas were recently removed from IUCN’s Red List as endangered.

Before, they were threatened by habitat loss, poaching, bush fires, civil wars, and more.

As their numbers surpassed 1000, they were removed from the list.

This was made possible by all the tourists who purchased gorilla permits to meet these gorillas.

Mountain gorillas can be trekked from Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, Virunga National Park in Congo, and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

Virunga, Mgahinga, and Volcanoes National Parks share the Virunga Conservation Area.

Tourists are always led to trek gorillas by park rangers, and once gorillas have been found, a period of one hour is always given to observe these great apes.

For gorilla habituation, you will be granted 4 hours around these apes instead of 1.

Gorilla habituation is the process by which tourists join scientists and researchers in the process of making gorillas used to human presence.

This involves four hours of being in the presence of mountain gorillas.

Gorillas are always habituated to get used to human presence before they are opened up for trekking.

Cost of Gorilla Permits

The cost of the gorilla permit will always depend on where you will trek gorillas from.

Rwanda has the highest tag, apparently amounting to $1500 for each permit purchased.

Uganda is the only destination that favors both budget gorilla trekking and luxury gorilla trekking tourists, with its permits being at a standard price of $700.

Congo offers the cheapest gorilla permits at only $400 each.

The cost of the Gorilla habituation is only $1500 in Uganda and entitles you to 4 hours with a gorilla family.

The best time for visiting gorillas in all the three parks is during the drier months of June to September and December to February.

During this time, the trekking trails are easy to traverse and not muddy like in the wet season, hence offering the best hassle-free trekking experience.

You will, however, have to follow the respective gorilla trekking rules and regulations and carry the necessary gorilla trekking gear with you.

Accessing Mountain Gorillas

Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda can be accessed within 2 hours from Kigali International Airport by road.

The easiest way to get to Virunga National Park is by flying into Rwanda and driving to the park in about 4 – 5 hours. Bwindi and Mgahinga can be reached from Kampala in about 8-9 hours.

Alternatively, you can fly to Rwanda and then travel by road to these two national parks in Uganda and access them within 4 hours.

You can also fly from Entebbe to Kisoro Airstrip or Kihihi Airstrip then take a short drive to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.

Gorilla FAQs & Information

  1. Why Can’t You Look or Make Eye Contact with a Gorilla?
  2. Why Silverback Gorillas Fight
  3. Importance of Mountain Gorillas
  4. What to do when a gorilla charges on you
  5. What is The Largest Species of Gorillas?
  6. What is a Group of Gorillas Called?
  7. What is the Mountain Gorillas Role in The Ecosystem?
  8. The Mountain Gorilla Defense Mechanism
  9. How to Provoke/Annoy a Gorilla
  10. How Gorillas Greet Each Other
  11. Do All Gorillas Become Silverbacks?
  12. Do Gorillas like Humans
  13. Do gorillas Eat of Kill Their Babies?
  14. Do Gorillas Eat Humans?
  15. Can you Tame a Gorilla
  16. Can you Own a Gorilla?
  17. Do Mountain Gorillas live in Families & Groups?
  18. How to Protect & Save Mountain Gorillas
  19. Why Gorillas Are So Strong
  20. How Many Humans Does it Take to Beat a Gorilla?
  21. How do you call a Baby Gorilla?
  22. How Do Gorillas Sleep?
  23. How Mountain Gorillas Communicate
  24. The Gorilla Life Cycle
  25. Do Gorillas drink water?
  26. Are Gorillas friendly & gentle to humans?
  27. Why do Apes, Gorillas beat their chest & sound hollow?
  28. Gorilla Threats: Why Mountain Gorillas were endangered?
  29. Why were Mountain Gorillas going extinct?
  30. What is a Silverback Gorilla?
  31. Gorilla Species: Different Kinds/Types of Gorilla & Breeds
  32. Mountain Gorilla Diet
  33. Mountain Gorilla Size, Average Height & Weight Measurements
  34. Natural Mountain Gorilla Predators
  35. Mountain Gorilla Population
  36. Lifespan of Mountain Gorillas
  37. Mountain Gorilla Natural Habitat
  38. Mountain Gorilla Conservation Efforts
  39. Mountain Gorilla Behavior
  40. How to Survive a Gorilla Attack on Humans
  41. Are Gorillas Dangerous to the People
  42. Why are Gorillas Poached in Africa
  43. How Gorillas Adapt to Rain-forest Environment
  44. Interesting Facts about Mountain Gorillas in Africa
  45. Traits, Qualities & Characteristics of Mountain Gorillas
  46. How Strong is a Silverback Gorilla?
  47. Best Place to See Mountain Gorillas in Africa
  48. Uganda Gorilla Families
  49. Rwanda Gorilla Families
  50. Congo Gorilla Families

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