Last Surviving Gorillas

Posted On November 27, 2009 

Common Info

Mountain Gorillas are the minor of the two subspecies of eastern Gorilla (the other being Eastern Lowland Gorilla). These gorillas mainly have two concentrations, namely the Virunga volacnic mountains in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo regions of Central Africa and in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. There are only 700 mountain gorillas that are remaining on the face of earth today. Uganda, Rwanda and Congo have signed an agreement for the conservation of these gorillas.

Country Info

Uganda (named after the Buganda kingdom in the south) is a small landlocked country (area: 2,36,040 square kilometres) in eastern Africa. To its east lies Kenya, Sudan in the north, Democratic Republic of Congo to the west, Rwanda to the southwest and Tanzania to the south. Lake Victoris lies in the south. National capital is Kampala.

Bwindi Impenetrable National ParkBwindi Impenetrable National Park

This Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in southwestern Uganda, bordering Congo and adjacent to the Virunga National Park. The park (comprising 331 square kilometres of forest) is part of the impenetrable hot, humid and thick forests of Bwindi and is accessible only by foot. It is home to 120 mammal species, 350 bird species, over 160 species of flora and fern besides a wide range of reptiles and amphibians. The park has been granted the status of World Heritage Site. The park is known for the mountain gorillas and half the world population of the endangered animals is concentrated in this jungle that is mostly cloudy, misty and cold. There are mainly four groups of mountain gorillas in this park that can be viewed by the tourists, namely, Mubare, Rushegura, Nkuringo and Habinyanja.

Mountain gorillasmountain gorillas in uganda

The mountain gorillas can survive in areas with temperature at zero degress Celcius, thanks to its longer and darker fur which distinguishes it from other gorilla species. The adult males, which are heavier than the females, are called silverbacks (named after the gray hairs that gradually grow on their backs). Male mountain gorillas can attain a height upto 5-6 feet and weigh 217 kilograms on an average. They move by knuckle-walking and are diurnal in nature. Every night, the gorillas make a new nest and move out early morning. The infants and their mothers spend nights in the same night. These mountains are primarily herbivores and feed on leaves, stems of various plants. They also consume roots, flowers, fruits and bark of trees besides small insects. A male gorilla can eat up to 35 kilos of forage while the female can consume 18 kilos. Availability of food sources determines the home making of the gorillas. They also feed upon the gallium vines in the Hagenia forests and fresh bamboo shoots. A newborn mountain gorilla spends the first few months with its mother and begins to walk at the age of four to five months. At the age of eight months, the infant starts to consume solid food. The gorillas generally reproduce at an average age of 13. The average life expectancy of a male mountain gorilla is 50 years during when it father 10-20 offspring. The life expectancy of a female is 40 years. These gorillas lead socially active life and live in cohesive groups. The size of the groups can vary between five and thirty. The dominant male generally determines the group’s movement. If the dominant male dies prematurely and he does not leave behind an heir, the group either splits up or an entirely unrelated male takes up its responsibility. The latter may kill the infants of the dead gorilla and father new ones from the females of the group. They also have different ways of communication including voice, gestures, symbolism and postures. Poaching, disease and loss of habitat to human encroachment are some of the factors that pose serious threat to these gorillas’ survival. However, by a study in 2007, these gorillas have registered a 6 per cent increase in population.

They local people of Rwanda, realising the importance of mountain gorilla conservation, has also revived the old ritual of Kwita Izina, ‘baby gorilla naming ceremony’ whereby each newborn gorilla gets a name.

Visiting the mountain gorillas

A limited number of tourists come to the dense forests to get glimpses of the primates. Only six visitors are allowed at a time to visit the groups which lie closer to tourist viewing and only an hour is allotted for them. Besides the gorillas, tourists can also watch Colubous monkeys, chimpanzees and baboons in these forests.


Gorilla Forest Camp

Uganda safari (7 day):
  • Start from the airport to Semliki Valley Wildlife Reserve whre you can stay at Semliki Safari Lodge in the night.Semliki Safari Lodge
  • Early next day, start for exploration trip with guide and chimpanzee researcher to track the apes.
  • Take a boat trip on lake Albert to view beautiful natural beauties
  • Next day leave for Queen Elizabeth Park where you can stay at Mweya Lodge and Jacana Lodge. Evening game drive is popular in this part. A trip to the Queen Elizabeth National Park would give one the opportunity to see a wide range of wildlife and birds.
  • Next you head towards the highlands of Uganda and the impenetrable forest of Bwindi
  • Trip to this forest will give a unique experience, that is, of gorilla tracking. It can take anything between two to eight hours to locate the gorillas here. Once spotted, one can hear them grumble at each other. Overnight stay at Gorilla Forest Camp.
  • You can start for Kampala, the capital of Uganda to witness its scenic beauty.
  • The journey ends at Entebbe Airport.
Gorilla tracking guidelines:
  • To maintain a minimum of 22 feet distance with the gorillas to avoid any transmission of disease
  • Not to spit in the gorilla zone in particular and the park in general
  • To talk in low pitch
  • Not to rush as that can frighten the gorillas
  • Not to panic if the gorilla turns vocal towards you. Look away from the animal
  • No flash photography

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