Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla Beringei Beringei) are a small subspecies of the Eastern Gorilla. The species is also possibly split down further into two sub groups. Just over half of the existing Mountain Gorilla population live in the Virunga Mountains. These are a range of extinct volcanoes on the border of three African countries – Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The rest of the Mountain Gorillas live in Uganda, inside the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The gorilla subspecies was discovered in 1902. They have endured the turmoil of their home countries, battling years of war, habitat destruction, hunting, and disease. They barely held on and at one point it was estimated that Mountain Gorillas would be extinct by the end of the twentieth century.
Gentle Giants of the Jungle
They are still on the endangered list, with a population of just over a 1 000. A Mountain Gorilla can grow up to 5 ½ feet when standing on its hind legs. They weigh up 440 pounds. The Mountain Gorillas prefer living high up into the mountains, in forests at an elevations of between 8 000 to 13 000 feet. Compared to their other ape cousins, their fur is much thicker and denser. This helps them to cope with temperature drops in the mountains, oftentimes below freezing.
Because humans have invaded their territory more and more, Mountain Gorillas are forced to move higher up into the mountains. This exposes them to possible deadly weather conditions they are not accustomed to. Luckily for the past couple of decades extensive conservation efforts have been made to preserve the Mountain Gorilla population. They are still battling against poaching, civil conflict, and the ever growing human population. But Mountain Gorillas have fought back and in the last couple of years their numbers have increased.
Interesting Facts about Mountain Gorillas
If you are intrigued by these mighty apes, here are a few interesting things you might not have known about Mountain Gorillas.
- A Mountain Gorilla’s DNA is 98.5% similar to a human’s.
- They are the biggest primates on earth. Males can weigh up to 390 pounds and females about 250 pounds.
- A Mountain Gorilla displays human-like emotions. They also laugh when tickled and cry when hurt.
- Male Mountain Gorillas can devour up to 49 pounds of vegetables per day, and the females eat only slightly less than this.
- Mountain Gorillas don’t drink much water. They prefer hydrating from eating plants.
- The female Mountain Gorillas build special beds for their young ones, from branches and vine leaves.
- A baby Mountain Gorilla weighs about 4.5 pounds when born.
- Mountain Gorillas live in groups, sometimes including more than 20 members. A troop will stay together for over 20 years.
- Although Mountain Gorillas do have four limbs that they can use for walking, they don’t use all four regularly, preferring moving around on only two.
- They don’t have tails.
- Mountain Gorillas are extremely intelligent. In captivity they can learn sign language to engage in interactions with humans.
- They build new nests each night for sleeping, and sometimes also build a nest for an afternoon nap.
- Old male Mountain Gorillas grow a patch of silver hair on their back as they age. This is where the term “silverback” comes from.
- A Mountain Gorilla can live up to 54 years.
- A female Mountain Gorilla reaches the breeding stage after about 10 years. Their gestation period is eight to nine months.