10 Facts About Mountain Gorillas

You may have heard that mountain gorillas share ancestry with human beings and chimpanzees; or that they are an endangered species. These 10 facts about mountain gorillas will give you an in-depth understanding of these gentle creatures.

Mountain Gorilla Faces

1. Mountain Gorilla Population 

One population lives in Uganda in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the others are in the Virunga Mountains; in three adjacent national parks, namely Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2018, it was estimated that only 1,004 mountain gorillas still roamed the earth, in two separate populations.

2. Mountain Gorilla Habitat

Mountain gorillas inhabit the Albertine Rift montane cloud forests and of the Virunga Volcanoes. Most are found on the slopes of three of the dormant volcanoes of Karisimbi, Mikeno and Visoke. The vegetation is very dense at the bottom of the mountains, more sparse at higher elevations and the forests where the mountain gorilla lives are often cloudy, misty and cold. The fur of the mountain gorillas is often thick and long enabling them to live in cloudy, misty and cold temperatures.

3. Feeding Habits of Gorillas

Mountain gorillas are herbivores and their diet is composed of leaves, shoots and stems. They also feed on bark, roots, flowers and fruit as well as small invertebrates. A fully grown male eats up to 34 kilograms of vegetation daily, while a female can consume as much as 18 kilograms. They feed towards the bamboo forests when fresh shoots are available and pitch camp in the subalpine regions to enjoy the soft centres of giant Senecio trees.

4. Expected Activities of Gorillas

The mountain gorillas are awake and active from time 6:00 a.m. up to 6:00 p.m. Many of these hours are spent eating, as large quantities of food are needed to sustain their massive bodies. They search for wild food early in the morning, rest during the late morning and around midday, and in the afternoon they forage again before resting at night. 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.

5. Identifying Mountain Gorillas

Mountain gorillas can be identified by nose prints unique to each one of them.

Adult males have conical shaped heads which are brought about by their pronounced bony crests on the top and back of their skulls. Adult females have less pronounced crests.
Mountain gorillas have a black ring around the iris completing their dark brown eyes.

6. The Silverback

Silverbacks are adult males with grey or silver-coloured hair that develops on their backs as they age, and their arm hair is especially long. The tallest silverback on record was a 1.95 m gorilla with an arm span of 2.7 m, a chest of 1.98 m and a weight of 219 kg. This was in Alimbongo, Northern Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo in May 1938.

The heaviest silverback recorded was a 1.83 m in Ambam, Cameroon weighing 267 kg.

7. Weight of the Mountain Gorilla

Males, at a mean weight of 195 kilograms upright standing height of 168 cm usually weigh twice as much as the females, at a mean of 100 kilograms and a height of 140 cm.

8. Mobility of Mountain Gorillas

The mountain gorillas predominately live on land while using their four limbs for movement. However, they will climb into fruiting trees if the branches can carry their weight, and they are capable of running using two rear limbs up to 6 metres. Like all apes their arms are longer than their legs; moving by knuckle-walking just like the Chimpanzees. They support their weight on the backs of their curved fingers rather than with their palms.

9. Are Mountain Gorillas Social?

Mountain gorillas are social and live in stable, cohesive groups held together by strong relationships between males and females; though relationships among females are weak.

Despite being fearsome, strong and powerful creatures, the mountain gorillas are gentle and shy. They are not aggressive especially in stable groups, but when two mountain gorilla groups meet, the silverbacks can at times engage in a fight to the death, using their sharp canines as weapons to cause deep, gaping injuries.

Better still, conflicts are most often resolved by displays and other threat behaviours that are intended to intimidate without becoming physical.

10. Composition of the Mountain Gorilla Family

The composition of a group of mountain gorillas is one dominant silverback, the group’s undisputed leader that controls and determines the movement of that group; mediates conflicts and protects the group from external threats.

The group also has a junior silverback, who usually is a younger brother or half-brother, or an adult son of the dominant silverback. The group is completed by including about two blackbacks, four mature females and up to six young ones or infants.

I hope the 10 facts about mountain gorillas I have shared with you have been informative.
You can now go right ahead and visit the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.

24 thoughts on “10 Facts About Mountain Gorillas”

  1. This is a fun article. It’s crazy to realize that there are so few of these awesome creatures left as late as 2018. It’s always interesting to learn how societies function within the Animal Kingdom and how they interact among their own populations. I considered potentially extending my studies in college to undertake a zoology major, as it was one of my primary interests in both high school and early college. For that, I’ll tend to read articles like yours in my free time, always learning something new about how the Animal Kingdom functions.

  2. Thanks for the great info. I’ve love to come to Africa to see the animals and experience the amazing culture.

    Is it safe to travel with kids? Where would you recommend we go if we wanted to see animals in the wild (that’s safe)

    1. Thank you Carolyn for your comment.
      It is totally safe to travel with kids.
      I will be sharing with you a number of places you can visit in Uganda and have a good time like Kanye West & Kim Kardashian did in October 2018.

  3. These are interesting facts about gorillas I didn’t know. They have lots of similarities with me 🙂 for example, the infant sleeping with the mother, the naps, the daily schedule. They are so big I am so surprised they have a vegetarian diet. That proves that we could easily live in a vegetarian diet. Well I’m not the expert 🙂 but I always see the big connections we humans have with gorillas.

  4. Hi Edgar,

    I really have a good coincidence reading this article. It was absorbing and contained sound, practical information. In fact, I have really benefited from it. You pointed out several things that I will recollect for years to come. I look forward to reading your next enlightening work. Thank you.

    1. Fasaun, I am glad you found this post interesting to you and beneficial to you. It gives the encouragement to post my next post. Thank you.

  5. Edgar, thanks for an interesting article. It is worrying that there are so few of these amazing animals left on earth. One can just hope that the central African governments fully realize this, and ensure that the 2 colonies left are protected and be left to live as they have been for thousands of years.

    1. Arie, your fears should be put to rest because there is an International Gorilla Conservation Programme that ensures these endangered species are conserved in Uganda, Rwand and the DRC. It has gained the support of the local communities who would be a danger to them. As a result the population growth of the gorillas is increasing every passing year.

  6. It was fun reading this. I was thinking that gorilla is no more in existence and never knew there are still up to a thousand gorillas in Africa. I wonder how many stomachs gorillas have that they spend all their day on eating alone. Gorilla is something else. Anyway I like apes but I dispute the fact that we originated from ape which some people believe in.

    1. Kenechi, this post confirms the existence of the gorillas. Gorillas have one stomach like us only that they have a larger and longer colon that allows to ferment and digest the plant fibres they consume.

      The theory of evolution is always a matter of discussion and I stand with you in this matter.

  7. Interesting facts, thanks for sharing.

    It is really sad that the future generation might not get to see a live mountain gorilla if much care is not taken.

    Human beings share ancestry with mountain gorillas, yet they are herbivores and most of us are not, I wonder what prompted that major distinction.

    Also, their hours of being awake is really unique, I wonder what makes them favor these hours.

    1. Etah, gorillas are a kind of herbivores called folivores; which majorly eat plant leaves. Their longer than human digestive tracts allow them to extract nutrients from these plants. 
      They have been put on a diet like ours of bread, rice and other foods and developed health problems like arthritis, diabetes, obesity, diabetes, depression, lethargy and muscle weakness. To survive in the jungle, they need their leafy diet.

      Gorillas prefer to feed when the sun comes out and take a nap after a heavy meal of close to 20kgs. This explains why the spend long hours sleeping.

  8. Hi There!

    Thank you for sharing the 10 facts about mountain gorillas. I have only seen a gorillas here in the Bronx Zoo, NYC, the poor thing looks so stressed and bored. I have no idea that they are herbivore, I know that they do not eat meat but I thought I saw a documentary about them eating bugs… I could be wrong. They are so majestic and beautiful, hopefully their population will increase. I seriously think that the zoo should take them back to the wild. Can’t wait to read more about them.

    1. Hello Nuttanee, I doubt you would find a happy gorilla in a zoo. Their natural habitat cannot easily be replicated in a zoo environment. Gorillas enjoy a snack of termites, ants, and termite larvae. 

      Zoos keep gorillas to allow people have a quick look at them without taking a trip to the jungle. For instance gorillas are only found in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda, while mountain gorillas are only found within the Virunga mountain region (the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda borders) as well as the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. 

  9. With every article of yours, my need to travel to Africa becomes more intense. It’s so sad that gorillas are in danger of extinction-they are wonderful animals! I know that in the past people hunted gorillas for various reasons, even to make ashtrays out of their hands. How about now, Ahimbe? I am sure there are laws to protect them. But human greed and stupidity are enormous. Are there any incidents of gorillas being hunted?

    1. Effie, you need to reorganize your travel calendar and put Africa first. In regard to seeing gorillas, Uganda is the perfect place to visit based on price,variety and accessibility.
      Gorillas used to be hunted a lot majorly for their meat but not anymore. Now we have the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, a coalition of international conservation organizations joining forces with national and local partners to ensure the long-term survival of the critically-endangered mountain gorillas. Now gorilla hunting is a case of the past with heavy penalties applied if one is caught.

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