December 07, 2021 | Bujo Safaris
Gorilla Beringei Beringei or commonly known as mountain gorillas is one of the most sought after tourism attractions in the whole world. This is partly because these primates can only be encountered in the wild in a limited range of three countries. These are Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda which also inhabit the always moist forested sections of the Virunga massifspanning across these countries. This region ranges from an elevation of 8,000feet to over 13,000 feet.
Total mountain gorilla population is just over 1000 individuals and Uganda hosts more than half of these within Mgahinga and Bwindi impenetrable forests. Mountain gorillas are spread over only four national parks, including Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo, and then Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
Mountain gorillas are known to bequite huge beings, strong, muscular with shorter legs compared to their arms, long cone-shaped heads and a belly that looks engorged at all times. An average adult mountain gorilla stands at a height of four to six feet tall when it vertically stands on its two legs. Male individuals are generally bigger than female gorillas and weigh almost as twice as their weight. Four to six feet tall when standing on its two legs.
Owing to their gigantic frames, adult male individuals usually weigh from 230 kg while females weigh at least 98 kg. Mountain gorillas are the second-largest primates only beaten to the first spot by their closely related counterparts, the eastern lowland gorillas. Mountain gorillas have dark black or brownish hair while older males can be differentiated from younger ones by a silver streak of hair running along their backs which earns them a title, silverbacks.
Owing to their gigantic physique and strength, mountain gorillas have very limited natural hunters in the jungle. The only known predators recorded are leopards and only resort to prey on lone juveniles and stray babies. No predator is ferocious or stupid enough to take on a fully grown adult especially a silverback or make an attempt when it’s a whole family.
With a very limited number of natural predators, the supreme danger to mountain gorillas’ survival is humans and their activities. These activities can either be directly or indirectly intentional to harm the gorillas. Intentional activities range from illegal hunting for bush meat, getting babies for pets and retaliation for destroyed plants.
Unintentional activities include spread of contagious diseases from humans like flu, colds and Ebola because of the close genetic relationship between the two species.Furthermore, farming practices bush burning where farmers clear farmland by burning vegetation. This is destructive to the mountain gorilla’s environment. Others include accidental deaths and fatal injuries of falling in snares meant for other animals like antelopes in the forest. Climate change caused byindustrialization, modernagriculture and mining is further aggravating the risk of changing environment and therefore mountain gorillas will have to adapt which leading tooccasional deaths in the process.
However, respective governments with the aid of international bodies like the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, are joining forces to limit controllable threats like poaching, human encroachment and poor methods of farming. This has been done by implementing strict laws against poaching and encroachment on mountain gorilla habitats, educating nearby communities about the importance of conserving gorillas, and sharing revenue earned from gorilla trekking with them through construction of livelihood projects like schools, health centers among others.
This has seen mountain gorillas being lifted from the list of critically endangered to endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, this is just a small achievement and more effort is needed to see that mountain gorillas are no longer listed in the threatened category by IUCN. You can also be part of this great course by planning a mountain gorilla trip in one of the three countries and escalating the progress of achieving it.
Travelers can visit and encounter mountain gorillas throughout the whole year but especially during the dry season of June to July and December to early February. During this time, gorillas reside on the lower slopes of Virunga Mountains and are much easier to encounter. The trails are also more navigable with thinner vegetation, less mud and insects to fend off. The rainy season is however ideal for people who prefer fewer crowds or limited budget because packages and accommodation rates tend to be discounted in this low season.
Organize a safari to trek mountain gorillas and get a lifetime experience to meet the endangered magnificent gentle giants. An encounter with these creatures will leave you in awe and hold enthralling memories for the rest of your life.