Gorilla Trekking in Uganda/Rwanda
African safaris to see the mountain gorillas in East Africa
Mountain Gorilla Trekking
Uganda is considered a top Africa safari destination because of its jewel in the rain forest jungle, the mountain gorilla. Uganda protects the largest population of mountain gorillas in the world, about more than half of the world’s 1008 mountain gorillas found in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga National Park in the great Virunga volcanoe region.
Seeing these mighty primates is reward to human imagination, attracting millions of travelers from around the world with adventurous curiosity. This alone makes us want to tell you more about these apes. so let’s dig in.
The Gorilla Species
The closest relatives of gorillas are the other two Homininae genera, chimpanzees and humans, all of them having diverged from a common ancestor about 7 million years ago. There are only two species and four subspecies accepted by scientists. Until recently, gorillas were considered to be a single species (Gorilla gorilla), with three subspecies: the western lowland gorilla (usually seen in zoos and originally lives in West Africa, west of the Congo River), the eastern lowland gorilla (inhabits the lowlands of Eastern Congo and is the smallest of the four subspecies) and the mountain gorilla (found in Eastern Africa Albertine Rift montane cloud forests ).
Western Gorilla. (Gorilla Gorilla)
It lives in West Africa, west of the Congo River.
Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla Gorilla).
It inhabits the lowlands and is the smallest of the four subspecies.
Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla Diehli).
Discovered in 1904, but not frequently seen, is the most threatened of all subspecies. Its total population is even smaller than the mountain gorilla.
Eastern gorilla (Gorilla Beringei).
It lives in the eastern part of Africa, east of the Congo River
Mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei).
Perhaps the most known subspecies, thanks to the research and conservation work done by Dian Fossey in the 1980s.
Eastern Lowland gorilla (Gorilla Beringei graueri).
It is the largest of all subspecies, but their teeth and hair are shorter than the mountain gorilla.
Eastern Lowland Gorilla
Western Lowland Gorilla
Cross river Gorilla
Describing The Gorilla
Gorillas are gentle giants and display many human-like behaviors and emotions, such as laughter and sadness. In fact, gorillas share 98.3% of their genetic code with humans, making them our closest cousins after chimpanzees and bonobos.
The largest of the great apes, gorillas are stocky animals with broad chests and shoulders, large, human-like hands, and small eyes set into hairless faces. The two gorilla species live in equatorial Africa, separated by about 560 miles of Congo Basin forest. Each has a lowland and upland subspecies.
Gorillas live in family groups of usually five to 10, but sometimes two to more than 50, led by a dominant adult male—or silverback—who holds his position for years. The bond between the silverback and his females forms the basis of gorilla social life.
Females become sexually mature around seven or eight years old but don’t begin to breed until a couple of years later. Males mature at an even greater age. Once a female begins to breed, she’ll likely give birth to only one baby every four to six years and only three or four over her entire lifetime. This low rate of reproduction makes it difficult for gorillas to recover from population declines.
Both gorilla species have been decreasing in numbers for decades, and a 2010 United Nations report suggests that they may disappear from large parts of the Congo Basin by the mid-2020s.
Conservation efforts by organizations, and governments are making a difference for gorillas. New protected areas are being designated for some gorilla populations, and the population of mountain gorillas has continued to increase in recent years to currently about 1008 mountain gorillas, leading to its downlisting from Critically Endangered to Endangered in November 2018.
Silverback, Male Patriarch
Female, Mother Gorilla
Home of the great apes
The great apes family includes the chimpanzees, Orang-utan and of course the gorillas as the giants of the ape family. the gorillas are known in three categories; the western lowland gorillas-which are normally seen in the zoos, the Eastern Lowland Gorillas which are still thriving in the Eastern rain forests of Congo and the Mountain gorillas- which is the most endangered with a population of less than 900 that are still thriving in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo, but Uganda inhabits more than a half of their total population which makes it an ideal destination to see mountain gorillas. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in Uganda is the best destination to track mountain gorillas.
Comparing Humans and Mountain Gorillas
It is true that the chimpanzees are our closest relatives on earth but the gorillas resemble humans in even more aspects. The hands and feet of gorillas are not different from those of humans, gorillas are able to walk like us and similarly, they spend most of their time on the ground. We share almost 98% of our DNA with the gorillas! The gorillas express their feelings by at least 20 different vocalizations and meaning, ranging from jealousy to shame, loving and hating. In order for the Silverback to show his power or intimidate others in the family, it beats on the chest and perhaps this is the only form of communications that is not common among humans. The gorillas are very gentle, peaceful and loving. The gorillas show very impressive looks and they rarely show aggression. Incase the gorillas are attacked, they collaborate and fight the enemy. They rarely fight and the fights happen when the leaders of different groups meet.
A Day in the Life of the Mountain Gorillas
Mountain gorillas start their normal day at around 6am with a search for food. To rate the day of gorillas, 40% of their day is spent at rest, 30% is spent on feeding and 30% of their time is spent on travelling. The home of the gorilla family ranges about 20 square kilometers and on a day, gorillas cannot move more than a one kilometer.
Mainly, gorillas feed on vegetables but can occasionally eat ants and other insects. They forage on leaves, roots, vines, shrubs, pith of herbs, fruits and stems.
They gorillas eat a lot; an adult male can eat 20kg in a day! But since they feed on diet with high water content, they don’t usually drink water. In the afternoon, they tend to rest while the young ones are playing. In the evening before dust, the gorilla group begins to build nests. Every gorilla sleeps alone except the young ones which sleep with their mothers. The nests are made of tree branches and other plants built on the ground.
Lifestyle of the Mountain Gorilla
The gorilla is groups also known as families of about 15 to 30 members in one family and every family is lead by a male Silverback followed by the females and their young ones. At the time of birth, a gorilla weighs about 2.5kgs which is almost similar to that of a new born human baby. After birth, the young gorilla grows twice more than that of a human baby and at the age of 3years, a gorilla begins to become independent. At the age of 6years, a gorilla weighs an average of 70kg and at this level, the female gorillas are considered to have grown but they still continue adding weight and size. Male gorillas are considered to be mature at the age of 10years. When they start developing grey hair on their back and at this level, the male gorilla starts planning to quit the parental group. The Silverback will then start staying alone as it attracts males to join him and, in the process, another gorilla group/ family is formed. The gorilla population doesn’t grow rapid because they reproduce at a very slow rate. In every 4years, a female gorilla gives birth once and to one baby. And because of many diseases and accidents that attack these apes, 30% of young gorillas don’t survive their first year after birth. Sometimes the young gorillas are deliberately killed especially by their step fathers. Once a male gorilla dies or is overthrown by another silverback, the new head tends to kill the step children so that he secures his own genes in the future.
Mountain Gorilla Social Life & Hierarchy
The hierarchy of leadership in gorillas in very important and clear. The Silverback dominates the gorilla family and the mother gorillas rule over their young ones. The ranks among gorillas are based on power and size, the silverback is usually bigger than any other group member. Silverbacks can weigh up to 200kg and have a weight of about 1.7meters. besides being strong, the leader must have a proven record of experience and abilities since it is mandated to protect the family against any attack or danger.
Conservation of the Gorillas
It is absolutely known that Mountain gorillas are world’s most endangered animals and to sensitize people to protect the gorillas, people have been given high chance to visit the gorillas at a small fee and the revenues generated from the visitors is used to benefit conservation.
But for successful gorilla trekking the gorillas had to be habituated first and this is a careful process which requires at least two years. In Uganda, there are special trained rangers which approach the gorillas carefully and spend a lot of time with them. Gorilla habituation and not an easy task to both the people and gorillas. The gorillas can easily get diseases from the humans and at the same time, the habituation can make the gorillas feel threatened, especially the Silverback; it can easily attack the people in the process of habituation. Please endeavor to maintain and respect the rules given to you by the officials during gorilla habituation and mountain gorilla trekking.
Gorilla Trekking Safaris Destinations
Places To Go See Mountain Gorillas
AFRICAN SAFARIS & GORILLA TOUR IDEAS
3 Day Uganda Gorilla Trekking Safari
Track Uganda's mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest NP
6 Day Murchison Falls Safari (Big Five Game)
Take this Big Five African safari route, boat cruise on the Nile and top of the falls