|QUICK FACTSKingdom: Animalia
Status: critically endangered
Population: approximately 800
Scientific name: gorilla beringei beringei
Weight: up to 440ibs
Height:4-6 feet when standing up
Life span : 55 years
Gestation period: 9months
Sharing a 97% DNA with humans the mountain gorilla is a very amazing yet endangered and among the great apes in the eastern part of Africa and the world at large that was in the past years close to extinction due to human activity as the population within their safe havens increased yet agriculture is the major economic activity that is carried out by many people in developing economies thus compromising the habitats of many wildlife species.
These gentle amazing giants have endured years of poaching, illegal trade, civil wars to see their numbers grow to date, however we cannot ignore the efforts of the one and only greatest conservationist to first fall in love and had objective views of courage, obsession, love and periodically, that is – Dian Fossey who put in a lot of effort in protecting them and later on brought their plight to the rest of the world, other current organizations and naturalists who carried on after the demise of Dian, non-government bodies like Gorilla Fund International (GFI), Wild Wildlife Fund (WWF), International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) local bodies re-known in Uganda – the Uganda Wildlife Authority(UWA) and Rwanda Development Board(RDB) cannot go without mention!
Today, there are roughly 800 Mountain gorillas in the whole world and are distributed between the Virungas conservation and the impenetrable forests of Bwindi forest National Park in Uganda. The Virungas conservation area is comprised of 3 parks that spread into Uganda, Rwanda and Congo that is to say Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Volcanoes Nationa Park and Virunga National Park respectively.
As the name implies, the mountain gorillas live in the mountainous areas covered with thick tropical and afro-montane rain forests at higher elevations of above two thousand four hundred (2400) to approximately four thousand (4,000) meters above sea level, they have thicker fur and are huge as compared to the lowland gorillas, this has helped them adapt to the freezing cold of their ranges which at times lower to zero degrees Celsius.
What may have been a bleak outlook of the subspecies just a couple of decades ago has brightened in the recent years due to conservation efforts and sensitization plus involvement of the local communities coupled with benefits like revenue sharing between the parks and local communities around these gorilla parks. Despite the continued human encroachment activities mainly from the agricultural practices of the people near them, the mountain gorilla population has greatly increased and today any tourist to Rwanda or Uganda always looks forward to doing a gorilla safari and indeed looking deep into their eyes is the most primate and wildlife encounter for a lifetime that any one visiting these countries should not miss out as they highly draw us deep into the heart of Africa and creates everlasting memories to any visitor who comes meters close or even feels the touch of a wild but habituated silver back just by the arms!!
About the Mountain Gorillas
The Mountain gorilla is also one of the two sub species of the eastern gorilla. One of these populations is in the Virunga Volcanic Mountains of central Africa, within three National parks: in the North West Rwanda; and the virunga in the eastern democratic Republic of Congo. The other mountain gorillas are found in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. However some primatologists consider the Bwindi population in Uganda as a separate sub species though no description has been finished, the estimated number of mountain gorillas is over 880.
Mountain gorillas are also descendants of the ancestral monkeys and the apes found in Africa and also the Arabian during the start of the Oligocene. The fossil record provides evidence of the hominoid primates found in east Africa about 18-22 million years ago. Also these fossil records of the area where the mountain gorillas live is also particularly poor and so it’s evolutionally history is not so clear. The mountain gorillas have also been isolated from the eastern lowland gorillas for about 400,000 years. These have attracted many tourists to come for safaris to Uganda.
The fur of the mountain gorillas are often thicker and longer than that of the other gorilla species, and also enables them to live in colder temperatures and the gorillas can be identified by nose prints unique to each individual. The males can weigh twice as much as the females. This sub species is on average the second largest species of the primates; only the eastern lowland gorillas, the other subspecies of the eastern gorilla, is larger. The adult males have more pronounced bony crests on the top and black of their skulls, giving their heads a more conical shape.
The crests anchor the powerful temporalis muscles, which also attach to the lower jaw; the adult females also have these crests hence less pronounced. And like all the gorillas they feature dark brown eyes framed by a black ring around the iris. These species have greatly attracted many tourists to come for gorilla tracking tours to Uganda.