Everything you need to know about mountain gorillas in Africa
Every year local and international tourists pay a visit to Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda to look for mountain gorillas. There are more than 1000 remaining mountain gorillas and half of them are found in Central Africa at Virunga National Park in Rwanda, Volcanoes National park in Rwanda and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda.
The mountain gorillas are only found in Central Africa and there are two types of species which are subspecies of Eastern gorillas (Gorilla beringei). Archaeologists believe that mountain gorillas separated from lowland gorillas for the last 2 million years ago. The first genus was called Troglodytes in 1847 although it was christened gorilla in 1852. Colin Groves suggested that all types of gorillas be called Gorilla gorilla including western gorilla, lowland gorillas and mountain gorillas but in 2003 the World Conservation Union divided them into two main species referred to as Gorilla gorilla and Gorilla beringei). The Mountain gorillas have thick fur that helps them to withstand cold temperatures around mountains in East Africa. It is easy to identify mountain gorillas due to their protruding distinct nose. Besides, the male weighs between 180 kg with a height of 150 cm while the female weighs 100 with approximately 130cm. Biological research shows that human genetic makeup shares over 90 % with that of mountain gorillas.
The mountain gorillas live in Central Africa, a region that has experienced regular human violence and civil unrest which has adversely affected the animals. For example, during the Rwanda genocide, there was massive poaching and killing of these gorillas as the refugees fled in cities and went to cut trees and hide. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has been calling for increased efforts to protect mountain gorillas because of threats of excessive destruction of their habitats, deforestation, illegal mining and hunting. Another factor that is affecting the population of mountain gorillas is climate change which keeps on forcing them to move into higher locations. The conservation effort has bred fruits because in 2008, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, stated that the mountain gorillas are not critically endangered.
The department of tourism in central Africa countries has beefed up the security patrolling of the National parks to rescue young gorillas from poachers. As a result, the number of these animals has been increasing steadily.
According to research the mountain gorillas live in groups of thirty with the male leading and protecting the rest. The male gorilla is known as silverbacks, a name that was coined by scientists due to the coat of silver that grows on their backside. Although the mountain gorillas are shy and rarely come close to human beings when faced with danger they roar and grant in anger to defend their offspring and their habitats. Moreover, the females begin reproducing at the age of 10 and they bear between two to six offspring. The young gorillas climb and ride on mothers’ backs in the first three years after birth. Most of their time is spent on climbing trees, playing and together as well as chasing one another on tree branches.
Mountain gorillas stand out among the eastern species in Central Africa. This species is easy to identify because of its peculiar size of the nose. Despite its population being threatened by poaching and rapidly growing human settlement, conservation efforts have materialized. The recent population of Mountain gorillas in the 2010 census indicated that there were over one thousand in Virunga National Park and they were increasing by 23%.