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.
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.