Mountain Gorillas are one of the rarest large mammal species in the world. Their small and fragile populations are found in a truly remarkable region of Africa….the western arm of the rift valley.
The Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Virungas forests and Mgahinga National park In Uganda are home to the last remaining Mountain Gorillas in the Word.
Mountain Gorillas rely completely on the forests, which in the past were converted or consumed by human use. Gorillas roam throughout their forest habitat and sometimes cover large distances in a day. Although Gorilla are not strictly territorial, they do have home ranges which can be as large as 40 square kilometers. A primary reason for such an extensive range is need for large amounts of vegetation. Gorillas move regularly in a constant search for food, thus allowing vegetation to regenerate in their absence.
Gorillas build their nests for sleeping at night. They use leaves and other plant materials to make these one night resting spots.
A healthy forest provides benefits to both the Gorillas and the humans. This includes maintaining the conditions for the a viable water-shed, which in turn provides clean water. The tree canopy of the forest slows down the impact of the rain and combined with the roots of the trees and plants, prevent erosion and sediment from polluting fresh water supplies.
Mountain Gorillas are protected in four national parks in three countries. The National park authorities of Uganda, Rwanda And Democratic Republic Of Congo, coordinate activities and monitor wildlife and illegal human activities throughout the Gorilla habitat.
This Region is the most exceptionally diverse in wildlife, Eco systems and Habitats. Other wildlife found in this region besides the mountain gorilla include a range of primates such as the Olive Baboon and Vervet monkeys.
Gorillas often exhibit various poses that appear comical and sometimes mimic human behavior. They share many characteristics with humans, including a high degree of intelligence, complex and social behaviour, strong emotional, bonds and well-developed senses.
An adult gorilla will consume up to 20kgs of vegetation, although a silver-back may consume as much as 35kgs per day.
Gorillas are the largest primates. An adult female gorilla will usually weigh between 70 and 120 kgs. An adult male gorilla will weigh about 160kgs, although male can reach as high as 227kgs.
A baby Mountain Gorilla is dependent upon its mother for about three years. At about two months a baby gorilla can crawl and at about four months of age, it will begin to ride on it’s mother’s back, clinging on her fur.
A new born gorilla weighs about 1.4 to 2kgs, this is about half the weight of a human at birth. Baby gorillas are very vulnerable and will stay close to their mothers for protection.
Gorillas, like any other primates prepare their food before eating it. The tough and some times bitter bark or leaves are often removed, so that the tender core can be enjoyed. Gorilla use their finger and teeth to delicately remove the parts of the plant they don’t want to eat.
Mountain Gorillas eat up to 70 kinds of plants and as many as 200 different parts of various vegetation, these includes wild celery, root, leaves, flowers, fruits, shrubs and bamboo. Sometimes Gorillas will eat ants and termites to supplement their diet.
Males mature at around the age of ten years, and about that time their hair on the back becomes silver. Therefore, the mature male are referred to as silver-backs. The silver backs are the leaders of the family group.
Generally Gorillas are peaceful and non-aggressive animals. However, the silver back is famous for his ferocious nature when he is threatened or when protecting his family.
Young Gorillas are playful and like to climb. As they get older, they spend less time climbing and more time eating. Gorillas spend about 30% of their time eating, 40% sleeping and 30% travelling.
Adult Gorillas have 32 teeth. They use their large molars to chew food and long canine to bite r break thick pieces of vegetation.
Each Gorilla’s nose is unique as a human fingerprint. This is one way researchers identify individual Gorillas.
Although Bwindi is very rich in biodiversity, Gorilla trekking remains the most popular activity in the park. The thrill of encountering and consequently sharing eye contact with the gentle giants is humbling and well deserving for the efforts needed to hike through the hilly impenetrable forest.
The park is divided into 4sectors with different Gorilla groups that is to say: Ruhija, Rushaga, Buhoma and Nkuringo sector. With Rushaga having the highest number of Gorilla families (4). The park boast of 9 habituated Gorilla families and only 8 people are allowed to visit a family per day.
Gorillas are trekked all year round but are a bit tasking during the rainy season which is from March to May and October to November. The rest of the year is relatively dry with a light rains from December to February and June to August.
Permits are $600 per permit for the foreign non residents and $500 for foreign residents, 250000/- for the East African Citizens to be used only once. However there are available discounts during the low seasons that is to say May and November.
Prior booking of permits is advisable usually 3 months in advance.
- A few tips to consider before and as you are with the Gorilla
If you have a cold or related infectious illness you cannot visit the gorilla as they are prone to human diseases.
Human waste should be buried 30cm (12″) deep.
Maximum number of visitors is eight people per gorilla group.
When you are with the gorillas, maintain a 7m (21ft) distance from the gorilla.
Smoking, eating and drinking are not permitted.
Children below 16 years of age are not allowed to trek, Visits are limited to one hour per.
Registration and briefing at the different park headquarters is essential right before you are led into the Forest in search with the Graceful Mountain Gorillas. An experienced guide then leads you into the impenetrable forest with the help of your walking sticks not to forget the rain gear and trekking boots as well as fully covering clothes. Porters are available to help you carry your luggage. The track usually begins from where the giants were last seen the previous day. Once you have met them you will spend a remarkable one hour with them which is guaranteed to be memorable before you leave them. The activity is quite demanding but well worthwhile. A certain degree of fitness is an added advantage in regarding the intensity of the activity. However if you are not in position to hike you could part with a few dollars and porters will be available to carry you the group on a
What you need
- Fully covering clothes
- Drinking water
- Hiking/trekking boots
- Insect repellant
- Rain gear(raincoat)