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Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla beringei)

The Mountain Gorilla is one of the three species of Great Apes found in the Albertine Rift valley, the other two being the Eastern low land gorillas and the chimpanzees. This much endangered species is only found in two montane forests: the Virungas shared between Rwanda, Congo and Uganda and Bwindi Impenetrable in Uganda. Most are found on the slopes of three of the dormant Virunga volcanoes: Karisimbi, Mikeno, and Visoke. The total number of mountain gorillas is about 750 individuals remaining.

The Mountain Gorilla has thicker and longer fur than that of other Gorilla species and this enables them to live in colder temperatures. Gorillas can be identified by nose prints unique to each individual. Males usually weigh twice as much as the females. Adult males have more pronounced bony crests on the top and back of their skulls, giving their heads a more conical shape. Adult males are called silverbacks because a saddle of gray or silver-colored hair develops on their backs with age. The hair on their backs is shorter than on most other body parts, and their arm hair is especially long. Like all great apes other than humans, its arms are longer than its legs. It moves by knuckle-walking like the common chimpanzee, supporting its weight on the backs of its curved fingers rather than its palms.

The Mountain Gorilla is highly social, and lives in relatively stable, cohesive groups held together by long-term bonds between adult males and females, these groups are non territorial; the silverback generally defends his group rather than his territory. The dominant silverback determines the movements of the group, leading it to appropriate feeding sites throughout the year. Each gorilla builds a nest from surrounding vegetation to sleep in, constructing a new one every evening. Only infants sleep in the same nest as their mothers. They leave their sleeping sites when the sun rises at around 6 am, except when it is cold and overcast; then they often stay longer in their nests.

The low reproduction rate of the gorillas is one of the reasons why they are an endangered species. In a 40-50 year lifetime, a female might have only 2 to 6 babies. A male reaches sexual maturity between 10 and 12 years.

Tourist activities to see the mountain gorillas have always being object of discussion, as the need to receive revenue from tourists must consider the aspects of conservation of the species.

In 2010 there are 7 families of gorillas open to gorilla tracking in Bwindi forest and other 8 families in Volcanoes National park in Rwanda. Destination Jungle organizes the gorilla trekking program and more comprehensive Primates tours packages.