Gorillas are herbivorous ,majorly ground dwelling apes. They inhabit the tropical forests of equatorial Africa. Gorillas are subdivided into the eastern and the western Gorilla.
The Mountain Gorilla is one of the two sub-groups of the Eastern Gorilla, the other being the Eastern lowland Gorilla. The Eastern Gorilla is the largest living primate and is a critically endangered species. At present , there are slightly over 1000 mountain Gorillas and 6,800 eastern low land Gorillas.
As their name suggests, the mountain Gorillas live in forests high in the mountains at elevations of 8,000 to 13, 000 feet. They have thicker fur , and more of it, compared to other great apes. The fur helps them to survive in colder temperatures.
Gorillas are classified as infants until they are three and a half years old, and adults from around 8 years. Males between 8 to 12 years are called “blackbacks” Then from 12 years old, they develop a silver section of hair over their back and hips earning them the name “silverback”. An average silverback gorilla can weigh up to 180 kg (30 stone) and measure 170 cm (over 5`5”) tall on all fours. In Contrast, female mountain gorillas weigh 90 kg, and measure o to 150 cm (4`9”).
The mountain Gorilla is highly social, and lives in a relatively stable family group that consists of an average of 10 individuals. The group is held together by long term bonds between adult males and females. 61% of the groups are composed of one adult male and a number of females; 36% of the groups contain more than one adult male. The remaining gorillas are either lone males or exclusively male groups, usually made of one mature male and a few younger males.
These family groups are non territorial. Both males and females in the group care for their infants; hugging and playing with them. A silverback generally defends his group. In Virunga mountain gorillas, the average length of tenure for a dominant silverback is 4.7 years. When they get older, most males and around 60% of females leave their birth group to join another troop. This helps prevent inbreeding.
Mountain Gorillas spend a quarter of their day eating. Around 86% of the diet is composed of leaves , shoots and stems of 142 plant species. It also feeds on bark, roots, flowers and fruits well as small invertebrates. Adult males eat an average of 18.8 kg (41 lb) of food a day while females eat 14.9 kg of food.
At night, mountain gorilla groups sleep together in nests on the ground or in trees, that they make from foliage.Infants will share their mother`s nests staying safe and warm.
Although strong and powerful, mountain gorillas are generally gentle and very shy. Severe aggression is rare in stable groups, but when two mountain gorilla groups meet, sometimes the two silverbacks can engage in a fight to the death. Conflicts are most often resolved by displays and other threat behaviors that are intended to intimidate without becoming physical.
The mountain Gorilla population is found in South Western Uganda, Northwest Rwanda and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Uganda has more than half of the world`s mountain Gorillas. These are found on the Virunga Mountain slopes in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park both Located in South Western Uganda.
Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
Gorilla trekking involves going on a guided hike through dense rain forest to spend time with a specific gorilla troop in their natural habitat. It can last from a few hours to a whole day. Visiting thеse еnigmаtiс and beautiful creatures is a life-changing experience.Gorilla trekking can be conducted all year around in Uganda, however the best time for gorilla trekking is during the months of June, August, September and December. This is because there are less rains and the parks are drier which makes it simple to hike and see the gorillas. In the wet season there is plenty of rainfall which makes the ground muddy and slippery.
The permits need to be booked at least 3 months in advance before your travel date, this is because gorilla permits do sell out very fast.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in the south western part of Uganda bordering the districts of Kanungu, Rubanda and Kisoro. The park also borders the Uganda-DR Congo border.The park is one of the oldest forests in Africa and was declared a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site. It is one of Uganda`s frequently visited National parks.It covers an area of 321 square kilometers and at a height of 1,160 – 2607m above sea level. It is home to over 400 mountain gorillas located in different parts of the Park. Bwindi forest national park currently has six gorilla trekking sectors namely; Buhoma, Nkuringo, Ruhija, Rushaga, Nyundo and Rubugiri, with Buhoma and Nkuringo emerging as one of the most visited sectors. The proximity of the national park to the border of Rwanda has long made it possible for tourists to combine Uganda Gorilla trekking and Rwanda Gorilla Trekking experiences in a single itinerary.
The park is a sanctuary for colobus monkeys, chimpanzee, and many birds such as hornbills and turacos.It provides habitat for 120 species of mammals, 350 species of birds, 310 species of butterflies, 27 species of frogs, chameleons, geckos, and many endangered species. Floristically, the park is among the most diverse forests in East Africa, with more than 1,000 flowering plant species, including 200 species of trees and 104 species of ferns. Tourists to the park make an 8 hour drive from Kampala to reach the park. The park is also connected by domestic flights from Entebbe International Airport, which land at Kihihi Airstrip and Kisoro Airstrip.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in the Virunga Mountains in Kisoro district and encompasses three inactive volcanoes, namely Mountain Muhabura, Mount Gahinga and Mount Sabyinyo. The Park is contiguous with Rwanda`s Volcanoes National Park and the Southern Sector of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Apart from Gorilla trekking, tourists also enjoy golden monkey trekking, volcano hiking, nature walks including to the gorge platform, bird watching and meeting the Batwa community. Tourists visiting Mgahinga Gorilla National Park make a 9 hours drive from Kampala to reach the park.The park is also connected by daily domestic flights from Entebbe International Airport and on to Kihihi Airstrip, which land at Kisoro Airport.
Trekking the Mountain Gorillas is a really fun and captivating activity to undertake.