Know the Mountain Gorillas of Uganda and Rwanda- Information and Background

Posted by on January 2, 2018

Your Guide to the Mountain Gorillas of Uganda and Rwanda

Know Before you Go Information about the Mountain Gorillas in the Heart of Africa


The Mountain Gorillas of Uganda and Rwanda – the largest primates in the world and the biggest Gorillas. The Critically endangered Mountain Gorillas of Uganda won’t be found in any zoo  Worldwide (they do not survive in captivity), They can only be seen in the Virunga Volcanoes and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in the Heart of Africa.

Know Before You Go – Before you come to visit the Gentle Giants of the Forest.

Here we give you information and Background on Mountain Gorillas of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Today there are about 880 plus some Mountain Gorillas left in the world and over half live in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla Park in Uganda, East Africa. Mountain Gorillas are slowly increasing in Numbers due to Conservation Efforts, Community Education and fee sharing and Gorilla Tourism that funds it.


Mountain Gorillas of Uganda and Rwanda – Information and Background – Say the word Gorilla and you might see all kinds images ranging from King Kong to some Tarzan movies.  Mountain Gorillas were not even known about by Westerners until 1902.  Rwanda was a German colony when  Captain von Berenge was climbing Mount Sabyinyo 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 elevations and colder climate.  The news of these gorillas drew hunters, especially to the Congo where they shot or captured them.  Prince Wilhelm of Sweden shot 14 mountain gorillas in a 1920-1921 expedition to the area.

The Belgians established a preservation program for  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 a man, an inn, the beauty of the Ugandan countryside, 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 and only found 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 in 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 and most Countries have Travel Advisories while travel insurance becomes void if you go there.

The Mountain Gorillas – Background and Information: 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) fee collected from foreign visitors to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla Park.  In Rwanda, permit fees are 1,500 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. 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.  Males are 10 times stronger than the toughest boxer, even on steroids.  A silverbacks  arms will stretch out over seven feet

Mountain Gorillas have longer and darker hair than their lowland cousins since they live in colder climates at much higher altitudes.  The lifespan is 40 to 50 years of age.

Mountain gorilla are mostly terrestrial but will climb into trees occasionally if the tree will support them, while 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 are 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 an 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 the season, roots, flowers.  Adults will eat up to 75 pounds a day.

A Mountain Gorilla Day is from 6 am to 6 pm with a nap around a lunchtime.  Light comes in Uganda just past 6 pm and darkness comes around 7 pm.

They move daily (a short distance) to a different location to spend the night making nests from twigs and leaves.  Some human has found them quite comfortable, even enough to fall asleep in.


Mountain Gorilla Behavior:

 Visitors to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest often ask “are

Dian Fossey was against visiting of mountain gorillas as it is done today in Uganda and, however, it is 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 result 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 are Humans who may set a trap for antelopes, but a Mountain  Gorilla gets entangled in it. The land is precious and is passed on to family members.d There is also encroachment by humans into the park, this comes in the form of farms, tea plantations, mining in preserved areas set apart for conservation

There had been a slash and burn mentality and it was hard to see how large tracts 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.

Leopards have the ability to kill an adult gorilla and leopards are found in parks such as Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.


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.


 Fun and Serious Facts about Mountain Gorillas:

Here is a compilation of fun and serious facts about Mountain Gorillas that you will enjoy.

One thing that surprises many is that the Mountain Gorillas are mostly Vegetarian.  The amazing thing about that is as to how a mostly Vegetarian Plant-Based Diet will get you to that size…much less on  Steroids that are at times used by Athletes.

We are always adding more factoids as we find them for your enjoyment and is part of our “know before you” go Gorilla Trekking in Uganda or in Rwanda in the future.


 Gorilla Habituation Experience Safaris:

In Uganda you can join the few that spend 4 hours with a Gorilla Family during the all-day Gorilla Habituation Experience.

Kabiza Wilderness Safaris is the leader in Gorilla Habituation Experience Safaris selling more Permits than any other tour operator to our Safari Participants.

During the last two years of this relative new Activity in Gorilla Tourism, the response from Clients has been a resounding “Wow.”  We offer both mid-range and luxury Gorilla Habituation Experience Safaris beginning with a 3 day Safari.


 Gorilla Safaris in Uganda – Rwanda

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.


 Gorilla Trekking Tips – Advice:

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.

Uganda now offers the Gorilla Habituation Experience in the Rushaga area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.  It is an all-day trek with 4 hours with a Gorilla Group being Habituated.


Visit  the Mountain Gorillas of Uganda and Rwanda – Get Started Today