Mountain gorillas are one of the most amazing species in the world with unique facts that have remained unknown even to those that have visited them before in the wild.
1. Rare Majesty
According to the latest mountain gorilla census conducted in 2018, there are about 1,063 individuals in the wild. They are found in only two locations in the world; in the Virunga Mountains straddling the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo and in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in southwest Uganda.
2. Huge giants
Gorillas are the largest living primates averaging between 100kg and 250kg while males can stand up to 1.8 meters tall.
3. Strong bite force
Gorillas have a strong bite force of around 1,300 psi, doubling that of a lion. This is perfectly designed to deal with the hard stems of bamboo and other plants that gorillas feed on.
Mountain gorillas are mainly herbivores with their main diet being bamboo, fruit and leafy plants.
5. Big appetite
Mountain gorillas are big eaters and can consume up 30kg of food every day.
The average lifespan of mountain gorillas is about 35-45 years.
7. Facial recognition
Gorillas have unique nose prints which can be used to identify them.
8. Night Comfort
Gorillas construct nests every evening for sleeping. Nests are constructed using light tree branches and leaves and the work is mainly done by silverbacks with the help of blackbacks.
9. Human relatives
Gorillas, together with chimpanzees and bonobos share over 98% of the human DNA which makes them man’s closest relatives.
10. Mother gorillas
Female gorillas become sexually active at about 7 to 8 years but do not conceive until a few years later. They give birth to 3-4 infants in their lifetime and their gestation period is 8 and a half months. Mother gorillas carry usually carry one or two babies at a time
11. Great parents
Male gorillas, usually silverbacks give a hand in nurturing infants, helping their female counterparts in several parenting roles like carrying and playing with them.
12. More than tourism
Trekking mountain gorillas not only leave tourists with a thrilling lifetime experience but also contributes significantly to their protection and community development. Part of the revenue collected from gorilla safaris is reinvested to protect and enlarge gorilla habitats while another portion is used to develop and support communities around these gorilla parks.
13. Only growing family
Mountain gorillas are the only gorilla subspecies whose population is increasing. There were fears that their population would be extinct by the end of the twentieth century but they have defied the odds to increase rather. This has been the result of intensive conservation efforts undertaken by governments and nonprofit organizations to protect mountain gorillas.
14. Family first
Mountain gorillas are very social animals, they live in well-organized families of about 2-30 individuals. Each family is composed of a leading silverback, several females and their infants.
15. Leading by Example
Just like a father, a silverback leads his family in all day-to-day activities which include deciding on areas for foraging, constructing nests, and security. The silverback also passes on these learnership skills to the young males in the group who later lead their own groups.
16. Same as Humans
Just like humans, gorillas are called infants before the age of 4 and juveniles at 4-6 years before they become adults.
17. Baby Naming
In Rwanda, baby gorillas born within a year are given names in a famous ceremony locally know “Kwita Izina,” which means giving a name. The ceremony is held in September each year in Volcanoes national park and usually attended by several international guests including celebrities and politicians.
18. Emotional Apes
Gorillas are emotional animals just like humans. They show their emotions in several ways including mourning their dead, laughing and feeling sad.
19. No Permanent Homes
Mountain gorillas surprisingly don’t have permanent homes for sleeping. Each evening they construct new nests at a place where the night finds them.
20. From little babies to giant apes
A baby mountain gorilla at birth weighs about 2-3kgs just like human babies. It is therefore mind-blowing to learn that the same little-born gorillas grow to become the largest primates in the world, weighing over 200kgs.
21. Long babyhood period
Baby gorillas stay under their mothers’ care until they are about 3-4 years including staying in their mothers’ nests.
22. Vocals for communication
Using unique vocal sounds is the commonest way adopted by gorillas to communicate to each other.
23. No respect for borders
Mountain gorillas within the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo have no respect for border rules as they keep switching from one country to the other. This is commonly practiced by the Nyakagezi gorilla family which often changes habitats between Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorilla national park in Uganda
24. Friends with humans but to a point
Habituated mountain gorillas are very familiar with humans who often visit them in their habitat and sometimes can come so close and touch visitors without harming them. However, gorillas can easily charge at humans in case they sense any form of aggression or interference from the visitors.
25. Vulnerable to human viruses
Study has shown that gorillas are highly susceptible to human viruses including Ebola, influenza and coronavirus. This can be attributed to the fact that gorillas share over 98% of the human DNA and therefore can easily be affected by any virus that affects humans.