Mountain Gorilla Info and Facts

Information on mountain gorilla.

Mountain Gorilla Description

The Scientific name for the Mountain Gorilla is Gorilla beringei beringei. Mountain Gorillas are remarkably strong and have a short trunk and a broad chest and shoulders. The Mountain Gorilla is the hairiest race of gorillas. Its long, thick black hair insulates it from the cold living conditions at high elevations. When the males are mature they develop a streak of silver hair on their backs and are therefore called 'silverbacks.'Adult male gorillas can reach 400 pounds, while females can reach about 200 pounds. Female gorillas don't have the crest on the top of their heads or silver on their backs like the males. When a silverback is standing upright, they can be as tall as 5 and a half to six feet tall. Normally gorillas walk on all fours, and are only about 3 and a half feet high at the shoulder.

Mountain Gorilla Behaviour

Because of the extensive research begun by Dr. Fossey and since carried on by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International and other gorilla conservation groups, the mountain gorilla is one of the most understood of all gorillas. The general consensus of those who work closely with the mountain gorillas is that they are generally peaceful and gentle.

However this doesn't mean that they won't occasionally charge, scream or show their teeth, to an outsider or within the group itself. Most of these Mountain Gorilla actions are meant to serve as warnings, to ward off danger or to prevent a fight. Mountain gorillas can communicate in a variety of ways, including facial expressions, sounds, postures and gestures.

There is the classic chest beating by male gorillas, which is used to show stature, scare off opponents or even to prevent a fight. When the Mountain Gorilla feels threatened they can make a variety of loud sounds, resembling roars or screams. Facial expressions are mostly used as communication. An open mouth with both upper and lower teeth showing means aggressions. A closed mouth with clenched teeth could signal anger.

One of the nicest sounds is heard when the group is resting after a period of feeding. Mountain gorillas roughly spend 30% of their day feeding, 30% traveling or moving, and 40% resting. At dusk, they prepare to settle down for the night and sleep in nests made of vegetation that the gorillas shove under and around them.

Mountain Gorilla Diet

One may be surprised that mammals as large and strong as mountain gorillas are primarily herbivores (vegetarians), eating a variety of plants and leaves. Mountain Gorillas eat a staggering 142 different species of plants like celery; nettles, bamboo and thistles, and they are quite particular about what parts of each plant they like to eat.

The Mountain Gorilla also finds ant nests and eats the ants, along with an occasional worm or grub. There isn't much fruit where they live, but they are partial to eating the wild berries that grow in their habitat. The mountain gorillas spend a lot of their time traveling and foraging in search of food, because plants and trees change with the seasons.

Full-grown mountain gorillas can eat up to 60 pounds of vegetation a day!

Mountain Gorilla Breeding

Mountain gorillas usually live in groups that contain one or two adult males (ages 12 years or older, called silverbacks), several younger males (called blackbacks), adult females, juveniles and infants. The dominant silverback is the center of attention during rest sessions and mediates conflicts within the group. The silverback forms special bonds with the adult females in the group and fathers most of the offspring.Mountain gorilla females can begin motherhood around age 10. Mothers share a very close bond and relationship with their infants for about 4 years, after which another sibling may be born. They typically bear young every four to five years, giving birth after a gestation period of eight to nine months. Mother gorillas initially hold newborns close to their chest, but the infant soon learns how to hold on for itself. It later learns how to ride on the mother's back until it is old enough to travel on its own.Young gorillas are adventurous and climb a lot. A young gorilla remains with its mother until 5 years of age. Newborn gorillas are weak and tiny, weighing about 4 pounds. Their movements are as awkward like those of human infants. However their development is roughly twice as fast. At 3 or 4 months, the gorilla infant can sit upright and can stand with support soon after. It suckles regularly for about a year and is gradually weaned at about 3.5 years, when it becomes more independent.Mountain gorillas have a slow rate of reproduction. This slow reproduction rate makes this species even more threatened. In a 40-50 year lifetime, a female might have only 2-6 living offspring. A male reaches sexual maturity between 10 and 12 years. Able to conceive for only about three days each month, the female produces a single young and in rare cases twins.

Mountain Gorilla Location and Habitat

The Mountain Gorilla is located in the Mountain jungles of Zaire, Rwanda and Uganda. A chain of eight volcanoes known as the Virungas runs through a western section of the Rift Valley, forming part of the border between Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.

Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has more than half of the global population of an estimated population of 780 mountain gorillas. Located in south-western Uganda bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo, this UNESCO World Heritage site boasts over 326 mountain gorillas, the largest and rarest of all ape species.

The Bwindi chimpanzee population size is unknown but estimated at 350-400. Bwindi the only forest in Africa in which these two types of ape occur together. The forests where the mountain gorillas live are often cloudy, misty and cold. At the bottom of the mountains, the vegetation is very dense, becoming less so as you go higher up.

Mountain Gorilla Conservation

The World Bank and the UN have recognized the initiative of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) in the protection of the globally endangered mountain gorillas. Uganda is the only country in which gorilla populations have been consistently on the rise and where the population is part of effective legislation that recognizes its habitats within a gazetted national system of protected areas.

An excellent way to help protect the last remaining mountain gorillas is to adopt a gorilla. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI) makes this possible with proceeds from adoptions directly going to support research on the mountain gorillas.

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