These apes are always encountered by many tourists on gorilla safaris comprising the eponymous genus Gorilla, which is the largest sized primate genus in terms of physical expression. The gorillas are predominantly land dwelling animals which largely forage on the vegetation and no wonder they also inhabit the forest tracts of Bwindi and the Virunga Volcanoes which is the world’s renowned gorilla destinations. These also belong to the Eastern Gorilla.
Species; Gorilla beringei,
Mountain gorillas are also posterities of the ancestral monkeys and the apes which dwelt in the vast lands of Africa and the Arabia at the onset of the Oligocene epoch approximately 34-24 million years ago which also shows that the flourishing of the gorilla safaris in Uganda and Rwanda is also by no means a surprise venture.
The mountain gorillas also share the same ancestor with the humans and the chimpanzees which are commonly encountered in East Africa. The three groups also separated from their ancestor about 9 million years ago. It is also this separation which led to the emergence of the genus gorilla and though its early relative is not well known, the theories also say that proconsul africanus which is the earliest ape could be the one. These unique apes have greatly attracted many people to come for safaris to Uganda.
Again, about 400,000 years ago, the mountain gorillas separated from the eastern lowland and these two sub species separated from the western gorillas over 2 million years ago. However, some books report that the debate about the classification of mountain gorillas is still unresolved. Mountain gorillas were also first regarded as Troglodytes in 1847 and later returned to gorilla in 1852, More so in 1967, Coln gloves suggested that all the gorillas should be considered as one species Gorilla Gorilla , Gorilla gorilla graueri and Gorilla gorilla Beringei as the three sub species. Also the IUCN conducted a review which classified gorillas into two species i.e. the gorilla gorilla and gorilla beringei in 2003.
Quick Information About Gorillas
Gorillas are very much related to humans by 97% of their DNA shared. They are one of the 4 great ape species living in Africa.
Since the time of Dian Fossey, there’ve been a number of initiatives focused on conserving mountain gorillas and their habitats. As a result, gorilla numbers which were once declining are increasing today; though continue to be threatened by poaching, habitat loss and human diseases.
Approximately 1000 mountain gorillas are living on planet earth, half of these live in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda. The rest are found in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda and Virunga National Park in eastern DRC. Tourists interested to see gorillas should plan their gorilla trekking safaris ahead with a trusted tour operator.
Besides the slight DNA percentage difference between humans and gorillas, scientific research shows that both wild and habituated gorillas live in social groups /families with more or less human like behaviors. A gorilla family can have a minimum number of 2 individuals (male and female) while the highest gorilla family size can have more than 30 individuals.
Gorillas also have human like senses including hearing, seeing, smelling, touching and feeling and are peaceful animals that never kill for fodder. Unlike habituated gorillas, wild gorillas when encountered often shy away, charge or become aggressively when threatened.
Mountain gorillas are wild animals but are suited for habituation, a process through which wild gorillas are tracked by researchers day by day and year to year imitating their behavior such as chewing on vegetation to make them accustomed to human presence. However, the process doesn’t change the natural behavior of gorillas but it’s intended to ease tourist encounter.
A single gorilla family normally has females, juveniles and infants led by 1 Silverback which commands all activities like feeding and moving within a habitat range. Sometimes a single group may have more than 2 silverbacks, though they tend to be aggressive towards one another. In such cases, silverbacks often fight until the strongest silverback takes control of its family. When young males mature, they often go off and create their own families.
Baby gorillas often feed and keep around a silverback because it’s their father, strength and protection in case of danger. Adult females often fold their mouth when it time for mating and stay around the silverback waiting for response.
In a bonded gorilla family, females often groom their young ones and show affection for one another including communicating through distinct sounds, gestures and postures like hugging.
Gorillas can climb up in trees but spend most of their time on ground feeding selectively choosing flesh edible plant leaves, bamboo shots, pulps, stems, tree barks, fruits and sometimes on ants and termites. They rest for 2-3 hours a day consuming about 35 kg of vegetation.
As the night approaches, a silverback looks for a suitable place as its family gets together making nests for sleeping. Each gorilla makes its own nest except for infants who sleep with their mothers. Then the next day early morning, a silverback leads its family to a new source of flesh vegetation from which tourists often encounter them on guided trek with experienced guides and trackers.
Tourists planning for their gorilla trekking safaris to Uganda, Rwanda or DRC should prepare in advance including physical fitness, booking permits and accommodations. Contact a trusted tour operator.