Mountain Gorillas are known to have originated from the same ancestors as humans and chimpanzees and are commonly referred to as man’s cousin. The mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) is a subspecies of the eastern gorilla and is found in rain forests in mountainous areas. These primates live in often cloudy, misty and cold areas especially slopes of mountains where vegetation is very dense. They are found in only three countries and are classified as critically endangered with 880 believed to be remaining worldwide.
Mountain gorillas are found in areas of Mgahinga National park in south west Uganda, volcanoes of North West Rwanda, Virunga in eastern DRC and Bwindi in Uganda.In adoption to their surroundings, mountain gorillas have thick and long fur suited for the cold temperatures. As unique as we all have different fingerprints, gorillas have different nose prints unique to each individual. The males weigh about 195 kilograms and have a standing height of 150 centimeters while the females weigh about half of the male at an average of 100 kilograms and height of 130 cm making it the second largest primate. All these gorillas have brown eyes with black iris.
The mountain gorilla is a diurnal animal, most active between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Many of these hours are spent eating, as large quantities of food are needed to sustain its massive build. It forages in early morning, rests during the late morning and around midday, and in the afternoon it forages 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.
The mountain gorilla is mainly a herbivore with majority of its diet is composed of the leaves, shoots and stems of 142 plant species. It also feeds on bark, roots, flowers, and fruit, as well as small invertebrates. The silverback males can eat up to 34 kilograms of vegetation a day, while a female can eat as much as 18 kilograms. The gorillas move in groups each with a dominant male silver back as leader; leadership usually spans to about 5 yrs. They are backed by other silverbacks who are usually relatives, females and infants. The silverback also protects the pack rather than territory against any threats.
Although strong and powerful, the mountain gorillas are generally gentle and very shy and hence most conflicts are solved by threat behaviours meant to intimidate without becoming physical. They make sounds such as barks and grunts while traveling and screams and roars to signal alarm or warning. Gorillas are known to be afraid of reptiles and face many other dangers. These include poaching, habitat loss, disease and civil unrest in the countries where they are located. Gorillas are very valuable tourist attractions and a lot has been done to boost their population and save their habitats. Nothing quite compares to the glimpse of these creatures and being a once in a lifetime opportunity this should be on your bucket list.