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Mountain Gorilla is the world’s smallest population that is branded to be critically endangered.  Mountain life is not that easy,  due to less oxygen, lack of survival needs, and being really cold. But this animal is unique because they live high in the mountains,  where there is less oxygen at 13000 feet above sea level. 

The place where humans end up becoming tired and dizzy when they reach height is the place where these species are adapted to live their life. They exhibit unique behaviors and appearances. Moreover, they have the least population of thousand. 

To know about this animal, continue reading. 

What are Mountain gorillas? 

Mountain gorilla

Mountain gorillas live in the mountains, therefore, according to the life of mountains, their appearance is adapted. 

They look large and tall from 4 to 6 ft weighing from 300 to 485 pounds adapted to survive in an environment where they look. They have long and black fur with a large mass which helps to keep them warm in the below-freezing temperature in mountains.

They also have long teeth, jaws, and short arms that distinguish them from other species. The males when reached 8 to 12 years are called blackbacks, and when they reach 12 years old, they develop silver hair in a section over their backs and hips, so they have a name called silverback. 

Females weigh half that at about  200 lb.  Both genders have similar thick black hair covering their body and their thick hair keeps them warm in cold mountain temperatures.

The newborn gorillas weigh about 4 lb at birth. When born they seem to be weak and uncoordinated as human babies. For the first four years of their lives, they clung to their mother’s back and by 3.5 years of age, they will be fully weaned from their mother’s milk and start the same diet as mature mountain gorillas. 

Their arms are longer than their legs making them walk on all fours. They walk on the knuckles of their hands but Gorillas can also walk with only their legs as humans do knuckle-walking gives them more balance to climb trees and steep hills.

Where do they live? 

They are the subspecies of eastern gorillas and live in two main areas in Africa in the Virunga green volcanic slopes of Rwanda, Uganda, and the democratic republic of Congo, which are 8000 to 13000 feet. 

They can also be found in Bwindi impenetrable National park in Uganda that connects to Sarambwe nature reserve, DRC. They inhabit high altitudes in tropical forest habitats and bamboo forests that are surrounded by agriculture and settlements. 

Mountain gorillas’ behavior

female Mountain gorilla with baby

They are usually found on the grounds in communities of up to 30 individuals. They have organized according to social structure and stay in troops. They are shy as they are strong.

They are dominated by older adult males called the silverback with silver hair. They organize in eating, nesting, and moving from a home range. When they get older, most of the males and 60% of females leave their birth groups and join another troop to prevent inbreeding. 

If they get disturbed they show their anger by standing upright, pounding their chest, throwing things, and hooting. The group leaders will charge at the threat while the Mothers will fight to the death to protect their young. But they are generally calm and non-aggressive when not disturbed.

At night they sleep together in nests on the ground or in trees. They do short barks when they are curious or alarmed. The male gorillas strut with stiff legs and vocalize with roars and hoots while beating their chest to intimidate their rivals. 

They provide protection to group members and silverbacks maintain order and decide all activities within their troops. They schedule feeding trips, resting time, and travel. They also father the majority of the young in the group.

What do they eat?  

Mountain gorilla diet

Mountain gorillas are omnivores as they eat both animals and plants. They prefer fresh fruits such as bananas and passion but they make up only 2% of their diet. 

80% of their diet is involved in leaves, shoots, and stems like bamboo. And they also eat ants, grubs, and snails. They spend a quarter of their day eating their food.  

Gorilla Reproduction

They give birth to one infant after nine months of pregnancy. The newborns are tiny and weigh about 4 pounds. 

They cling to their mothers from four months to three years by playing, clinging, and swinging from branches. They are classed as infants until they reach three and a half years old and become adults from around 8 years. 

The infants will share their mother’s nest and stay safe and warm. And they have a lifespan of 40 years.

What is special about mountain gorillas? 

They are human relatives

It is true that they walk on four legs and have fur. But did you know that mountain gorillas are our relative? 

They share 98% of our DNA. Like humans, mountain gorillas have a unique identifier. They use several tools in different ways including flushing out termites. Just like it is with humans, they live in a family group with a male, other males, females, juveniles, and infants. 

If you observe the interaction between members in a gorilla group, it will remind you of your selves. 

Unique Fingerprints nose patterns

Like humans, they have unique fingerprints. Each mountain gorilla has a unique pattern on its nose. Since you won’t see their fingers much closer, the nose pattern is what you can use to distinguish between two similar-looking individuals.

The bite force of mountain gorilla

These Gorillas have a bite force of around 1,300 PSI (Per Square Inch) which is considerably more than that of a lion or tiger at around 1,000 PSI. In comparison to humans which range from 150 to 200 PSI, it is found that a gorilla’s bite force is more than that of 6 humans put together. 

Given that gorillas are mostly herbivorous and very gentle, this strong bite force comes as a surprise. 

One of the biggest and most powerful primates

silverback mountain gorilla

In 1924, an experiment was conducted. They found that an adult gorilla can throw about 450 kilograms of force and are strong compared to humans. It is nine times stronger than an average man. 

A silverback gorilla lifts up to 815 kilograms of weight. They are strong and are capable of breaking bamboo sticks which seems an exhibit 20 times stronger than an average man. They are also considered strong because the grip of silverback is strong enough to even crush a crocodile easily. 

With more strength, they are formed to make certain movements and are incredibly strong to tear down a huge banana tree to get fruits. 

Different types of calls

It is said that they have 16 different types of calls. These vocalizations serve different purposes for communication. It ranges from infants communicating distress to their mothers, to silverbacks showing off how strong they are. 

They aggressively call through Roaring and Growling. They call silently, scream, and do alarm bark when they fear. They cry and wine to show distress and do Pig Grunts, Hoot Bark, and Belch vocalizations to show their group coordination. 

The Hoot series is done to show Intergroup Communication and  Chuckles, Copulatory Pants, and Whinnies for miscellaneous Vocalizations. 

When multiple individuals are involved in games like wrestling, tickling, and chasing they make chuckles to accompany where a gorilla’s mouth is hanging open with no teeth showing. Chuckles are not usually heard during bouts of solitary play, however, you may still see a play face. 

They are highly intelligent 

They use basic tools and even make some tools. Gorillas can even learn a language and with enough guided human interaction, gorillas both in the wild and in zoos have shown improved language skills in both sign language and spoken language. They can learn up to 2000 words. 

They are extremely clever. They form strong familial relationships and contemplate the past and future. These mountain gorillas have been observed to have civilizations in various places centered on various techniques to prepare food and prefer distinct colors. 

In the Republic of Congo’s Nouabale-Ndoki National park, a female gorilla was observed using sticks to judge the depth of water while crossing a marsh. While another was observed to use a tree stump as both a bridge and support. 

 Their lifespan

Males between 8-12 years are called ‘blackbacks’. Then from 12 years old, they develop a silver section of hair over their back and hips, earning them the name ‘silverback’. 

How many Gorillas are left? 

Mountain gorilla toddler

The total number of gorillas in the wild is estimated to be just above 1000. But the numbers are still rising and many new births have been reported by the various authorities in charge in all the 3 countries of Rwanda, Uganda, and DRC. 

The lands are increasingly being used for agriculture and competition for limited natural resources that will lead to deforestation. The mountain forest is entered to collect water and firewood putting gorillas at risk from human contact and illness from humans. Forest destruction and illegal mining for charcoal are done. 

And gorillas venture into farmlands to eat crops like maize and bananas that cause conflicts with humans. Gorilla tourism is not managed well and it can impact the behaviors and health of these animals. 

These gorillas cannot live in different habitats or zoos and any loss of habitat massively affects their survival. So governments in Uganda, Rwanda, and DRC have designated strict borders for the national parks where gorillas live. This supports their increasing numbers over the last few decades.

Gorilla tourism is one of the biggest contributing factors that enable the continued work toward the conservation of gorillas and their homes in the wild forests. This is how it happens. the money collected from gorilla permits is used to fund activities such as research and monitoring.

A percentage of the collected money is also directly reinvested in the local communities near these parks. This enhances the local livelihoods and actively involves the local community in conservation.

Why are mountain gorillas important to the world?

Mountain gorillas play an important role in their environment. They maintain a natural balance. If these large-scale grazers are not there to eat lots of vegetation, the food chain would be disrupted, and this could negatively affect other wildlife in the area. It will also ultimately affect the people who depend on that environment for food, water, and other resources.

Socially and environmentally responsible tourist visits, including carefully guided trips to see gorillas, is also an important source of income for local people living in close proximity to wild gorillas.

Mountain gorilla safaris

It is expensive but worth it.

The gorilla habituation experience allows you more time with the gorillas than in normal gorilla trekking. A single mountain gorilla can generate over $2.7 million through tourism in its lifetime. 

It has been easy to protect them because of the monetary value of mountain gorillas. The governments of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo are willing to go to great lengths to protect them. The countries do not need to be pushed by conservationists when it comes to protecting the great primates like it is with other wildlife like elephants and rhinos

For the ultimate wildlife, experience, you can combine gorilla trekking with viewing other primates,  cultural experiences and a general wildlife safari in any of the African countries would be best. 

An advanced team of trackers is sent before the sun rises to identify the exact location of the gorillas. They then direct the Rangers to where the group is located.

Final thoughts

Mountain Gorilla facts seem to be interesting as they are unique and special. They are relative to humans sharing 98% of our DNA and they have unique identifiers like fingerprints. Noses are used to identify them individually. 

The population is reducing due to environmental destruction but at the same time, they are secured by the governments to provide a natural balance and earn an income as they are loved by tourists. 

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