December 07, 2021 | Bujo Safaris
Gorillas are fascinating creatures that have even been featured in famous documentaries, movies, and books like King Kong and inhabit the tropical rainforests of east and central Africa. They are grouped into two species of western gorilla and eastern gorilla. This is further divided into four subspecies - eastern lowland gorilla, mountain gorilla, western lowland gorilla and cross river gorilla. The most famous subspecies are the mountain gorillas. All subspecies are listed as endangered on the IUCN red list.
The renowned subspecies “mountain gorillas” are found within a thin strip of volcano ranges known as the Virunga volcanoes. This species can be only found in the countries of Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda. They can be encountered in the closely monitored and protected parks of Virunga national park of Democratic Republic of Congo, Mgahinga National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, and the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
Mountain gorillas live in groups called families or troops that rarely go above 25 individuals. Families are made up of a single dominant male known as a silverback, couple of females and other males usually related to the leader plus their off springs. The dominant silverback offers protection and a sense of direction and organization in the group to all of the members. All other males must be subservient to the leading silverback and if they cannot overthrow his leadership after a challenge they are exiled and form provisional all-male bachelor troops until they can create their own families.
In the same line of great apes, mountain gorillas have been studied and found to be among the smartest creatures on earth. Research has shown they can do self-reflection, careful planning, and learn how to use different tools. Further research on captive individuals for example the famous ‘Koko’ has revealed that gorillas can use and understand sign language effectively. They are extremely social creatures that create strong bonds with each other and can laugh when happy or grieve when a member dies or gets hurt.
Gorillas are mainly terrestrial animals that prefer to stay on the land but have a restricted skill to climb trees that are able to support an individual’s weight. However, younger gorillas are fairly skilled tree climbers due to their smaller body frames and size. Gorillas sleep in nests overnight mostly on the ground or the trees made out of branches and leaves. They are also highly active during daytime and do more sleeping at the night. Gorillas however can have short irregular naps in the day between foraging for food, playing and resting.
Mountain gorillas just like their close relatives -chimpanzees use knuckle-walking, a special method of movement. This technique involves walking on all four limbs instead of two hind limbs and with their knuckles curled up on the ground. Gorillas also have the ability to walk on two legs for a limited distance and time. They are capable of using their forelimbs with precision to grasp, lift, hold and tear with a strong resemblance to human beings.
Due to their close resemblance in character and skills, a question is usually asked if gorillas can swim. Just like humans and other great apes, gorillas are not natural swimmers. And usually try to avert bigger and deeper bodies of water like rivers. However, gorillas have been recorded to enjoy playing with water on different occasions. During crucial situations like foraging for food or escaping from danger, they can find their way through water by wading on their legs but this water must be only up to their waist or they will be prone to drowning.
If gorillas are caught in between an abrupt rain shower, they merely remain stationary and wait for the rain to end. Gorillas can use nearby caves or trees to take cover but they have never been recorded to use large branches or leaves to shelter themselves. This behavior is a common one among their close relatives - orangutans and bonobos.
Gorillas can be visited in the wild in only few countries that they inhabit - Rwanda, Congo, Uganda, Gabon, Equatorial Guineaand Democratic Republic of Congo among others. Carefully developed packages can allow you to meet and interact with these special creatures. This involves gorilla trekking and habituation. Habituation is where you help in making gorillas familiar with human presence while trekking just involves enjoying and relishing the presence of already habituated gorilla families.
Get a gorilla permit to any of the few destinations to experience a golden tour experience only found in these richly endowed countries.