Mountain Gorilla Information – Uganda – Rwanda
The Mountain Gorillas – Background and Information – Facts – Behavior – Habitat -Diet – Predators
The Mountain Gorillas – Background and Information: The endangered Mountain Gorillas of Uganda won’t be found in any zoo in the world (they do not survive in captivity and there are no surviving mountain gorillas in zoos), you can only find them and see them in Africa, in the countries of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are only about 880 some Mountain Gorillas left in the world and over half live in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla Park in Uganda, East Africa.
Say the word Gorilla and one’s mind will come up with all kinds imaginative images from King Kong to some Tarzan movies. The Mountain Gorillas were not even known about by westerners until 1902. Rwanda was a German colony when a Captain von Berenge was climbing Mount Sabinyo on the Rwanda side with some friends and they were at the 9300 foot level and camped when a group of Mountain Gorillas was spotted and he shot two of them but could only retrieve one. It was a young male about 5 years old, 220 pounds and not too large, but larger than any apes Captain von Berenge had seen. Bones and skin were sent to Berlin where it was identified as a gorilla.
No one had thought that gorillas could exist in such a high and much colder climate than in West Africa. The news of these gorillas drew hunters to the area, especially the Congo where they shot or captured Mountain Gorillas. Prince Wilhelm of Sweden shot 14 mountain gorillas in a 1920-1921 expedition to the area.
The Belgians established a preservation program for the Mountain Gorillas and so did the English in Uganda. In Uganda for a long time no one was even allowed to take visitors to view the Mountain Gorillas. In Kisoro, Walter Baumgärtel was given permission to set up visits for travelers to his Travellers Rest Hotel, a place you can still stay at today in Uganda. Baumgärtel wrote the Book “Up among the Mountain Gorillas” which is about his time in Uganda and encounters with the giant apes of southern Uganda. It is a lovely book about man, an inn, the beauty of the Ugandan country side, and mostly about the Mountain Gorillas. Dian Fossey used to stay there on a regular basis and as did George Schaller to name just two.
Most Gorillas that you might have encountered in a zoo are from the lowlands of western Africa, the mountain gorillas are a subspecies called Gorilla beringei beringei. The only place you can find them is in the wild in the Virunga areas of Rwanda in the Volcanoes Park of Rwanda, Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Uganda at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The parks are within 48 kilometers of each other. In Uganda and Rwanda the parks are easily and safely accessed, in the Democratic Republic of Congo there are security issues at times
The Mountain Gorillas – Background and Information tells us from surveys that there are 880 mountain gorillas in the world. Uganda has over ha hem found in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, while others are at Mgahinga Gorilla Park. The Gorillas are actually increasing in numbers due to the protection they are receiving from the Ugandan government which involved the communities surrounding the parks and gives them a portion of the 600 dollar Gorilla tracking (trekking) fees collected from foreign visitors to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla Park. In Rwanda permit fees are 750 usd.
Mountain Gorilla Description:
The Males are usually twice the size of females, they can be 6 foot tall and weigh 350 to 500 pounds. They are simply strong, muscular, long arms. The males are called silverback since their hair on the back gets a silver touch to it as they mature. That is why they are called Silverbacks. The males strength is 10 time stronger than the toughest boxer, even on steroids. A silverbacks arms will stretch out seven feet
Mountain Gorillas have longer and darker hair than their lowland cousins since they live in colder climates at much higher altitudes. The life span is 40 to 50 years in age.
The mountain gorilla is mostly terrestrial, but will climb into trees occasionally if the tree will support them, the young ones will play in trees like children.
An interesting factoid is that Gorillas and Humans are 98% genetically identical.
Mountain Gorilla Habitat and Diet:
In Uganda there are two places where Mountain Gorillas may be found, one is Mgahinga Gorilla Park. A beautiful park and a part of the Virunga chain of volcanoes that stretches into the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest contains the largest Mountain Gorilla Population. It is a primeval forest that is also called “Place of Darkness.” The canopy of the trees making it dark within the forest. The altitudes of the forest are between 1,160 to 2,607 meters above sea level. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla Park each have different characteristics and similarities. Bwindi Forest is not a extinct or dormant volcanic area while Mgahinga Gorilla Park is.
Mgahinga Gorilla Park has higher altitudes and Mountain Gorillas will venture up and partake of some afro-montane vegetation. Mostly the Mountain Gorillas will eat large quantities of leaves, fruit, bamboo shoots in season, roots, flowers. Adults will eat up to 75 pounds a day.
A Mountain Gorilla Day is from 6 am to 6pm with a nap around a lunch time. Light comes in Uganda just past 6pm and darkness comes around 7pm.
They move daily (a short distance) to a different location to spend the night making nests from twigs and leaves. Some human have found them quite comfortable, even enough to fall asleep in.
Mountain Gorilla Behavior:
Visitors to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest often ask “are mountain gorillas” dangerous? Though powerful and very strong, they are gentle and shy, besides the mountain gorillas that visitors see in Uganda are habituated. That means that they are accustomed to people, a process that takes about two years.
Dian Fossey was against the visiting of mountain gorillas as is done today in Uganda and, however it is also that money that keeps them from extinction since they are prospering and growing in number in recent years.
When mountain gorillas feel threatened they will attack in order to protect their own. When groups of Mountain Gorillas meet, there can be a fight between the Silverbacks unto death or resulting in injuries.
The mountain gorillas live in groups that can vary in size from 2 to 30 to 40, but most often in groups of around 10. There is no mating season and babies are born all year long. Males start breeding at about 15 years of age and females give birth from 10 to 12 years old. Females will give birth every two to three years giving 4 to 6 offspring during their lifespan.
Males leave their group at about 11 years of age, while a little over half of the females will leave their group.
They communicate by sounds such as grunts, shouts and roars, 25 sounds have been recognized by researchers
Mountain Gorilla Predators:
The greatest threat to Mountain Gorillas is the encroachment of growing villages around them. There had been a slash and burn mentality and it was hard to see how large tracks of land should be left for Gorillas, it is through an educational process in both Rwanda – Uganda along with cash incentives to the community through tourism that the gorillas in Uganda are not as threatened by poachers as they might be in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
They are also threatened by diseases that humans may bring to the park, that is why strict rules are in place to prevent the spreading of disease from humans to Mountain Gorillas.
The Mountain Gorillas – Background and Information – it is one thing to read about them or see the pictures online but nothing comes close to being in their presence.
Here are some of the best mountain gorilla trekking safaris in Uganda and Rwanda.
In Uganda you can also spend 4 hours with gorilla family in the Rushaga Area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in what is referred to a Gorilla Habituation Experience where you are with researchers who are preparing gorilla family for visits with humans.
We also do Gorilla Treks from Kigali to Bwindi Impenetrable which is a 3 hour drive-time to the Rushaga area of the forest.
Here you find all the information about Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda and Uganda, all that you need to know about Permits, Safaris, What to Wear while on the Trek – simply practical advice that anyone that wants to track gorillas will find most helpful.
Gorilla Tracking is for most a once in a lifetime event and it is best to be prepared for it.
If you have any questions regarding Gorilla Tracking in Uganda and Rwanda – feel free to contact us and we will get back to you shortly.