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The Stanley plateau in the Rwenzori mountain ranges of Uganda - kwezi outdoors

About the Mountain Gorillas

The recent mountain gorilla census puts global count at 1063 with 459 (43%) in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Birth of a Mountain Gorilla

The recent gorilla census puts the total number of the endangered mountain gorillas at 1063 in the wild. Of these, 459 are found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. Mountain Gorillas are probably Uganda’s best known wildlife and in a way easily recognized as a national animal.

The rest are shared between Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda, and the Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Their home

Mountain gorillas live in forests high in the mountains, at elevations of 8,000 to 13,000 feet. They have thicker fur, and more of it, compared to other great apes. The fur helps them to survive in a habitat where temperatures often close to freezing.

A few years ago, the survival of the mountain gorillas was very bleak. However, joint interstate and national conservation efforts between Uganda, DR Congo and Rwanda have seen the population grow. Bwindi has over 43% of the mountain gorillas left in the world. The newborn gorillas make are an assurance of a future for the mountain gorillas.

Though demonized by movies like King Kong and Congo, the mountain gorillas are actually gentle giants. These very strong and powerful apes are actually gentle and even shy—say more like Jungle Book. 

Mountain gorillas don’t feed on any meat, eating only plants, shoots and fruit. Red ants are their source of protein. 

All they want is … to live

The struggle for the survival of the mountain gorilla first came to international attention through the work of American scientist Dian Fossey. It was through her efforts, even at the point of death, that probably, the mountain gorilla got the first step away from extinction. The movie “Gorillas in the Mist” features Fossey’s work in the gorilla highlands.

Over the years, these great apes have been threatened by habitant loss, poaching and human activity. A number of conservation initiatives have been set up to support the survival of the remaining great apes. Since the 1980s numbers have risen from 600 to currently over 1000.

Female mountain gorillas give birth to one infant after a pregnancy of nearly nine months. The baby mountain gorilla, weighing anything from 1.8 kilograms (four pounds), spends the first three to four years moving around mostly on the mother’s back.

By four years, the infant is fully weaned and ready to eat the main mountain gorilla diet that includes plants, roots, shoots and the occasional red ants that provide protein.

The baby gorilla will eventually grow to weigh up to 160 kg (350 lb) for the males, while the females will hit about 90 kg (200 lb). Mature males are distinguished by the silver strip on the back and thus the name Silverback. The females on the other hand have a crest of hair crowning their heads. Both male and female mountain gorillas are covered by thick hair that keeps them warm in their cold mountainous homes in Bwindi and Mgahinga.

No mountain gorilla is kept in captivity

That mountain gorilla populations are growing s proof of the success of community focused conservation efforts. Uganda Wildlife Authority gives 20% of the national park procedures to support community projects in education and health, among others. The projects directly benefit the communities bordering the national parks. Schools and hospitals have been built, employment provided through guiding services, and businesses by community members are growing with the tourism numbers.

About Bwindi

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park lies in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the Rift Valley. Its mist-covered hillsides are blanketed by one of Uganda’s oldest and most biologically diverse rain forests, which dates back over 25,000 years and contains almost 400 species of plants. More famously, this “impenetrable forest” also protects an estimated 400 mountain gorillas – roughly half of the world’s population, including several habituated groups, which can be tracked.

This biologically diverse region also provides shelter to a further 120 mammals, including several primate species such as baboons and chimpanzees, as well as elephants and antelopes. There are around 350 species of birds hosted in this forest, including 23 Albertine Rift endemics.

In 1994, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park was inscribed on the World Heritage List.


Fast Facts About Mountain Gorilla

Type: Mammal
Diet: Omnivore
Average life span in the wild: 35 years
Size: Standing height, 4 to 6 ft (1.2 to 1.8 m)
Weight: 135 to 220 kg (300 to 485 lbs)
Group name: Troop or band
Relative: Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man