All about the life and ecology of mountain gorillas
The endangered mountain gorilla is one of the subspecies of the gorilla. The other subspecies is the lowland gorillas, it is a specie most often found in zoos.
There are approximately 900 mountain gorillas remaining on earth. Unlike other gorilla species, mountain gorillas cannot live in captivity. They only survive in their natural habitat, afro-montane forests only found in Uganda, Congo (DRC) and Rwanda. These are located in the Virunga mountains (striding across the three countries) and Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The Virungas contain Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and Virunga National Park in DRC. Bwindi Impenetrable NP has about 60% of the earth’s mountain gorillas.
Mountain gorillas live in families similar to humans, with a dominant silverback male. Humans can access these endagered giants after they have gone through a program called habituation which takes at least 2 years. About 28 gorilla families have been habituated for research and tourism. Tourists can visit the gorillas through an activity called gorilla tracking or trekking. It is called gorilla tracking because you walk in the tracks of the mountain gorillas as you search for them through the forests. It is also called trekking because you trek through forested highlands to find the gorillas. Basically you follow to where the gorillas spent the previous night to find them that day.
Mountain gorilla sub-speceis names are given based on their habitat location: lowland gorillas live in montane forests while mountain gorillas live at high elevations of up to 10,000 feet on the slopes of volcanoes. The lowland gorillas can be found on lowland forests and prefer living in thick rain forests of Central Africa in countries of Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Gabon, Central African Republic and in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Odzal-kokoau National Park (one of the oldest national park in Africa covered by 1,360million hectares of pristine rainforest).
In description, the male mountain gorillas are usually twice the size of the female, they can be 6 foot tall and weigh 350-500 pounds. They are simply strong with muscular long arms. The males are called silverback because their hair on the back gets a silver color as they mature. The males’ strength is 10 times stronger and its arms stretch out long. The mountain gorillas have longer and darker hair since they live in colder climate at much higher altitude compared the lowland gorillas that tend to be smaller and have brownish-grey coats and a pronounced brown ridge. The mountain gorillas have a life span of 40 to 50 years of age.
Mountain gorillas are herbivores, feeding on plants like wild celery, thistle, and nettles about 150 various plants. Special trees are bamboo and bracket fungus. Their food plants grow profusely in the cool, moist mountain climate of their range in Rwanda, Congo and Uganda During the rainy season because the bamboos are tender and green, the bamboo shoots contain 84% of water with an extra of trocatea, flowers, stems, roots, soft bamboo leaves as well as the dry season black berries that act as a delicacy for the mountain gorillas.
There is more movement if there is scarcity of food, it may be hard to easily spot the gorillas. Again during the rainy season, the mountain gorillas are dormant with less activity to do. The gorillas move from one place to another looking for food, sometimes plants and trees change with the weather. Adult mountain gorillas feed on about 60 pounds of vegetation daily.
While it is true that they are large, powerful and very strong creatures, mountain gorillas are also affectionate, gentle, shy and easygoing creatures that live a peaceful and playful life. They live in groups that can vary in 2 to 30 to 40 but most are in groups of around 10. There is no mating season and babies are born all year long. Males start breeding at about 15years and females give birth from 10 to 12 years old. They give birth every 2 to 3 years giving 4 to 6 off springs during lifespan.
Large males patiently allow young gorillas to climb all over them without a murmur of protest, about 11yeras of age, the males leave their group. They communicate by sounds such as grunts, shouts and roars, 25 sounds have been recognized by researchers. Since the gorillas share a lot with humans, you will be surprised by the way the mother gorillas look after its younger one, their relationship and close bond created usually lasts for about 4 years. After the four years, the female can conceive again.
A mother gorilla is acknowledged to have close to six babies with a time frame of four years. When the gorillas get to their sexual maturity, they want to move out of the group and form a new one as they mate with others. Mountain gorillas are habituated that is they are accustomed to people a process that takes about 2 years. They are not aggressive towards humans unless they are threatened.