Mountain gorillas have always been the first thing that comes to any one’s mind at mentioning of a safari in Uganda. There are many people all over the world who know about gorillas, but few of them have got detailed information of the facts about the species. Many people don’t know about their habitats, diets, behaviors or how they have survived in the wild.
Gorilla habitats; where can you find mountain gorillas
Mountain gorillas can only be seen in Africa specifically in Uganda, Rwanda or the DRC. These are endangered species and there are about 880 of them left in whole world. More than half of these are found in Uganda. Mountain gorilla is a sub species called the Gorilla Beringei Beringei and can only be found in Virunga region which includes; Volcanoes national park, Bwindi national park, Vurunga national park and Mgahinga national park. These national parks are within 48 kilometers of each other. These move daily to different locations to spend a night making nests from twigs and leaves.
History of mountain gorillas
The westerners first heard about mountain gorillas in 1902. While Rwanda was still a German colony, a one captain Von Berenge hiked mount Sabinyo on the Rwanda side with some friends and saw a group of mountain gorillas. He killed two of them and retrieved one a young male of about 5 years weighing 220 pounds. This was larger than any other primate the Germans had ever seen. These decided to send a skin and born samples to berlins for testing and it was discovered that the creature was a gorilla.
In history, no one had ever expected gorillas to be able to live in a place of such a high altitude and in cold temperatures. Many hunters including Prince Wilhelm of Sweden were drawn to the region when they heard about the survival of these gorillas. This prince killed 14 gorillas in the space of one year, between 1920 and 1921. With too much hunting, the population of these rare species slowly decreased, so the Belgians established a conservation program in Rwanda, and the English in Uganda did the same. With in Uganda, no one was allowed to visit the mountain gorillas in Uganda for some time. Ultimately, Walter Baumgartel was given permission to organize visits for travelers to his inn, the rest inn in Kisoro. He also wrote a book about the gorillas.
The main characteristics of mountain gorilla
There are many characteristics which are both behavioral and physical that makes the mountain gorillas unique. One of them is mountain gorillas have longer and darker hair than the low land gorillas. The hair on the male’s back has a touch of silver, and that’s why the male mountain gorillas are called silverbacks.
Male mountain gorillas are in most cases twice the size of the females. These can tower up to 6 feet tall and weighs about 350- 500 pounds on average.
Mountain gorillas are very strong well-built long arms. Their arms can extend up to 7 feet. It has been expected that they are ten times stronger than the toughest boxer you can ever find.
Mountain gorillas are mostly worldly but will irregularly climb up trees if the trees can support them. The young one can often be seen playing in trees, kind of like humans. This supports the scientific factoid that gorillas and the humans are 98% genetically identical.
What do mountain gorillas feed on?
The mountain gorillas live in dense forests at high altitude, so their diet essentially consists of afro montane vegetation. This is mostly green and leafy food. These are vegetarians without even trying. They mostly feed on leaves, fruits, and bamboo shoots in season, roots, and flowers. The adult mountain gorillas can eat as much as 75 pounds of this a day.
The habitants mostly determine their diet. With in Uganda, Mgahinga gorilla national park is part of Virunga chain of volcanoes and has got afro montane vegetation on which the gorillas feed. Bwindi impenetrable forest is a primordial thick forest that is factually impenetrable and dark and exists at an altitude of 1160 to 2607metera above the sea level. Even though these habitants are different in number of ways, they have got similarities in what they have to offer by way of food for the mountain gorillas.
Are mountain gorillas dangerous?
Many people always wonder if mountain gorillas are dangerous. These strong giants can be quite gentle and shy, most especially those that have been habituated to get used to human presence. Those are the ones that gorilla trekking trips lead you to. The habituated gorillas are used to human presence. The process of habituation takes about 2 years, sort of like behavior therapy.
When the gorilla feel threatened, they respond by attacking to protect themselves, which is one of the reasons why they need to be habituated before people can visit them in the parks and in the forests.
Mountain gorillas live in groups or families and these groups vary in size from 2 to 30 or even 40. Most of the groups in Uganda have about eleven gorillas and like the human being, there is no designated mating season. The babies are born all year round. Breeding age for the male is about 15 years while the females start breeding between 10 and 12 years. A female mountain gorilla can give birth every 2 to 3 years, which can amount to 4, 5, or 6 off spring during their lifespan.
In the past, not everyone thought it was a good idea to visit gorillas in Uganda, one of the people who opposed this was Dian Fossey one of the foremost scientists in primate research. However the gorilla trekking and visits have brought in money which has helped in protecting the endangered species.
A day of a mountain gorilla starts from 6 am to 6 pm with a nap around lunch time. Light comes in Uganda past 6pm and darkness comes around 7pm. These communicate by sounds like the grunts, shouts and roars, 25 sounds have been documented by the researchers.
Why are mountain gorillas protected?
The mountain gorillas are threatened by a number of things including, human activity and diseases. The activities like violation of humans on their habitat, burning and cutting down parts of the forests and greenery that constitutes their home has threatened the mountain gorilla’s survival. There are poachers, even though in Uganda, this is not a big problem like it is in the DRC. These are threatened by diseases most especially those that humans bring with them to the park.
There are a few measures that have been put in place to protect the gorillas;
Education has been paramount: here the people are sensitized on gorilla conservation and why it’s significant.
There are many rules and guidelines that have been put in place in the national; parks that protect both the gorillas and the visitors.
There are gorilla campaigns to raise money to support gorilla conservation.
Due to the protection given to the mountain gorillas, the population of gorillas in Uganda has increased. The communities in the area have also been shown the benefits of gorilla conservation. A gorilla permit in Uganda costs $600 dollars and part this money goes to the local communities.