Mountain gorillas are a subspecies of eastern gorillas and are the fewest in the world, and some biologists wonder if they could be two distinct subspecies. Over half of them live in the defunct volcanic Virunga Mountains that border the DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda, and the rest live in Uganda’s Bwindi National Park.
Since the mountain gorilla species were identified in 1902, they have overcome war, hunting, habitat degradation, and illness. These hazards were once so severe that the species was feared to die off by the end of the century. Their name suggests that mountain gorillas live in 8,000 to 13,000-foot steep forests. Comparatively, their fur is thicker and more plentiful than eastern gorillas. Want to learn more? Let’s dive into 10 incredible mountain gorilla facts!
1. Mountain Gorillas Have Their Own Group of Physicians
Because mountain gorillas are an endangered species, medical professionals in Uganda regularly monitor mountain gorilla populations, doing parasite checks and administering vaccines to protect against disease. Since mountain gorillas share around 98% of the human genome, they are susceptible to contracting human diseases like the common cold and the flu when near humans. This is one of the main considerations for limiting the number of visitors allowed to go gorilla tracking in Uganda’s national parks daily.
2. Males Have Different Monikers As They Get Older
Mountain gorillas live 40-50 years. Male gorillas mature at 15 when they start reproducing. These gorillas are called black backs. They’re called “silverbacks” as they continue to age because their black back hair turns silver with age. Silverback males are often the parent and protectors of their young.
Silverback gorillas control feeding, moving, and resting schedules. Because they’re older, silverbacks are larger and more powerful than other males. A silverback can lift 10 times its body weight!
3. Mountain Gorillas Are Wanderers
It is not true that all mountain gorilla groups live in the same area. Like nomads, they trek every day across many kilometers in quest of sustenance. Since this is the case, many safari-goers enjoy tracking down families of mountain gorillas. Even though mountain gorillas are nomadic, they nevertheless take the time to build nests out of leaves and branches to use as beds when it’s time to rest at night or during the day.
4. Mountain Gorillas Aren’t Like Other Gorillas
Even though they share many similarities in appearance, mountain gorillas and other types of gorillas are not the same. In addition to its larger size compared to other gorillas, the mountain gorilla is distinguished from other gorillas by a wide variety of other morphological characteristics.
Since it lives in a colder, higher altitude environment, the mountain gorilla’s fur is thicker, longer, and darker than its lowland cousins. Mountain gorillas have shorter arms than other gorillas, but their noses, teeth, and jaws are larger.
5. They Have Human-Like Emotions
Mountain gorillas, like people like you and me, can feel sorrow and anguish and cry because of personal experiences and hardships. Mountain gorillas have been seen giggling at their antics, which include teasing each other. Young gorillas, like human toddlers, will interact socially and engage in playful shenanigans together.
6. Mountain Gorillas Are Gentle Giants, But Beware
Travelers on safari in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest often wonder if the gorillas there are dangerous or aggressive. Despite the fearsome appearance of their massive size and strength, these creatures are typically more shy and friendly than violent. When they feel threatened, however, these gorillas can act aggressively. They do this by banging their chests, yelling, and grunting. If a mother gorilla thinks her baby is in danger, she will fight to the death.
7. You Won’t Find Mountain Gorillas in a Zoo
Keeping a mountain gorilla captive is impossible as they will eventually die. Most likely, the gorillas seen within zoos hail from the lowlands of western Africa and are not mountain gorillas. Mountain gorillas can only be found in the dense forests of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in central Africa.
8. Mountain Gorillas Are Family-Oriented
The gorillas of Uganda tend to gather in troops of 5 to 30. Troops are large families with a dominant male, many females, and their offspring. At the age of 15, the male would typically strike off on his own to start a family, bringing a few females with him. A silverback is a dominant male in most groups of gorillas.
9. They Have Their Own Way Of Communicating
Even though a mountain gorilla lacks the physical ability to produce human-like vocal sounds, it may use various sounds and hand gestures to convey meaning. Barks, hoots, grunts, and hand gestures are common forms of nonverbal communication used in social situations. A beating chest, a scream, or a roar could mean an alarm. A contented gorilla will exhibit this behavior by belching.
10. Their Population Numbers are Extremely Low
It is estimated that just 900 mountain gorillas are left in the wild today. Uganda is home to more than half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, most of which can be found in the country’s two national parks: Bwindi’s Impenetrable Forest and the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Hiking tours in these parks allow visitors to get up close and personal with the endangered mountain gorilla in Uganda.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Roman Samokhin/Shutterstock.com
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