The mountain gorilla is an awe-inspiring, chest-thumbing large and immensely strong ape found mostly in volcanic slopes and dense tropical forests of Africa. When angry, it can rise to its full height and hit the chest while roaring deafeningly. They live for about 50 years. Sadly, this sub-species of the Eastern Gorilla remains an endangered species today.
Mountain Gorilla Habitat :
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Mountain gorillas inhabit forests in high mountains that are about 8000 to 13,000 feet height. They possess thicker furs than other apes. The fur enables them to survive in cool mountain temperatures. Sometimes the temperatures may drop below freezing point.
They can be found captive in 4 national parks in Africa spanning three countries, namely:
- Bwindi National Park in Uganda
- 3 national parks spreading in the Virunga mountain forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda and Rwanda
Mountain Gorilla Facts :
The mountain gorilla is the largest ape out there. Here are some facts about them :
- It is huge and can rise to 4 to 6 feet in height.
- A male weighs between 300 and 485 pounds
- A female may weigh up to 200 pounds
- Has thick truck
- Has longer arms in comparison to other apes – in fact arms are longer than the hind feet
- Has longer hair compared to other apes
- Has broad chest
- Has broad shoulders
- The adult males are larger and they can be twice the size of the females
The main predators of mountain gorillas are humans. Mountain gorillas have become the victims of:
- Civil strife and wars in the region they inhabit, including countries like Rwanda, Congo and Uganda, and those that have witnessed civil war in the last 1 to 4 decades.
- Gorilla live in forests high up in the mountains. But human actions on forests, such as cutting of trees or destruction of forests to create room for human habitation and expanding cities have forced mountain gorillas to reach higher up in the mountains and reduce their habitation.
- As mentioned earlier, human action has forced mountain Gorillas higher up in the mountains. There, they face harsher climatic conditions and a more hazardous lifestyle. They have to inhabit a smaller area and fight more for territorial control.
- Other human actions directly deplete their population, for instance poaching and hunting. Sometime ago, shrinking forests and habitations brought gorillas in a bloody confrontation with humans and they were hunted down and killed.
- Baby gorillas can be traded to be used as pets, study subjects for study or taken to private zoos.
- Other predators include leopards and crocodiles.
Concerted conservation efforts have created awareness about the plight of the mountain gorillas. Endeavors to protect the gorillas have begun to bear fruit.
- As endangered species, certain areas of forest cover and gorilla habitations have become protected properties or territories.
- Further human encroachment in these areas has been forbidden by law. Likewise, the mountain gorillas have been declared endangered species. This has prompted countries to enact laws to enact laws prohibiting poaching, hunting and killing of gorillas.
- In Rwanda, with the help of the traditional skill of the Hottentots and Bushmen, the mountain gorillas have been trained to be calm and friendlier to humans. Every year, a special national celebration is observed where gorillas bond with humans.
Only 630 mountain gorillas are alive today. They are found in 3 African countries in 4 national parks.
Mountain Gorilla Diet :
Their diet can broke down as follows :-
- The diet is made of 97 different species of plants
- Nearly 67 percent of its diet is fruit
- The diet comprises leaves, seeds and stems, wild celery, bamboo thistles and stinging nettle
- 3 percent of the diet comprises termites and caterpillar.
The mountain gorilla takes longer for onset of reproduction to happen.
- Females begin reproducing from 10 years of age
- The male forms his own group and becomes sexually active from 12 to 14 years
- The female reproduces every 3 to 4 years
- Female gorillas give birth after 9 months
- The gorilla reproduces one offspring
- The female can only conceive for about 3 days every month
- A baby gorilla is born weak and weighs about 4 pounds
- Babies are only able to cling to their mothers’ hairs
- Mortality rate of baby gorillas is high
- Baby gorillas only have higher chances of survival if they cling to their mother or caregiver
- The alpha silverback protects the females and baby gorillas of a group
- Baby gorillas depend solely on their mothers for food. They suckle every hour or so
Mountain Gorilla Interesting Facts For Kids :
- Female gorillas resemble human children
- Gorillas will build a new nest every day where they curl up and sleep
- They are nomadic i.e. they live in troops led by the alpha male.
- The minimum group size is 2 consisting a silverback and a female
- A male mountain gorilla is called a silverback
Social behavior and Organization :
- Mountain gorillas can live in troops of up to 30 gorillas
- Studies show that they live in age-graded groups of about 9 individuals
- The troops can have 1 male with several females or more than one male
- Females leave the troops where they were born to avoid in-breeding
- Males may remain in the troops where they were born or dispersed
Communication and Sounds :
Gorillas interact within the troop or outside the troop. Within the group, they communicate through:
Communication with outside groups may be used to alert the group with possible danger. They include:
- Chest beating
Mountain Gorilla Breeding :
- Mountain gorillas have polygamous mating relationships
- Male gorillas easily sense when a woman is in heat
- They can mate any time of the year
- Females leave their natal group before onset of sex
- Only the alpha silverback enjoys the right to mate with females though sometimes females may mate with multiple males
- Mountain gorillas mate on the ground and also face to face like humans
Gestation and Life Cycle :
Mountain gorilla gestation period takes 8 and a half months.
- Childhood lasts from birth to 3 years
- Juvenile stage is 3 to 10 years
- 10 years and above marks the period of maturity