Declared one of the best safari destinations in the world, an authentic African safari should be at the top of every traveler, avid adventurer, and nature and wildlife enthusiast’s travel bucket list. Some of the top safari destinations in Africa include Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.
Mountain Gorillas are one of the most delightfully friendly and loving animals in the world. While many find them to be extremely ferocious creatures, they are actually the total opposite in nature and can warm up to humans easily compared to other wild animals. They are quite shy, but they are also very smart.
Unfortunately, the species is drastically decreasing in numbers because of the human encroachment and conflicts near their African homes. They are considered an endangered species. Many tourists from all over the world fly to Africa just to get a glimpse of these magnificent creatures. Sadly, they are also sought after by poachers, which make them hard to spot in the wild.
Perhaps the interesting things about them will help spread awareness and make it easier to fall in love with them more. Here are a few interesting facts about mountain gorillas.
Gorillas Share Human DNA
Gorillas are special primates that share 98% of their DNA with humans.
If you have ever seen one up close at a zoo, their intelligence is just extraordinary. This is what makes them interesting too, because they can be taught and can adapt to human activities quite well.
Gorillas Breed Slowly
Female gorillas do not give birth until they reach the age of 10. When they do give birth, their babies have to be watched over and guarded very carefully until they are old enough to fend for themselves.
Just like human children, gorillas also take care of their young very proactively and make sure they are protected at all times.
Gorillas have Emotions
One of the most fascinating things about gorillas is the fact that they also have emotions. Believe it or not, gorillas cry when they are sad and can even laugh when they are tickled. Because they are so similar to humans it is easy to spot how they feel.
Gorillas can last without Water
Unlike many other animals gorillas don’t need access to a constant rich source of water like a lake or a stream. They get most of their water from the moisture in the plants they eat or from morning dew.
Mountain gorillas actually dislike water in general and try to avoid crossing streams of water. They only become interested in regular water sources during the dry season and when there are only little pools of water. They prefer this to avoid the danger of their infants getting washed away by flowing sources of water.
Gorillas are very Shy and Docile
Gorillas are very shy and docile creatures, and will only react when they are provoked by danger. This counters the popular belief that gorillas are very aggressive and violent creatures.
Gorillas Stay in Families
Gorillas are very social animals that form harems. Just like humans, they are very close with members of their families. Gorilla families can have up to 20 members. One silverback gorilla (dominant male) can live together with several other female gorillas and their offspring. However, 40% of mountain gorilla groups can contain several other adult males that are closely related to each other.
The majority of all gorilla groups contain more females than males, which is why a lot of males are left roaming the forest alone. Mountain gorilla males that are loners will occasionally form an all male group, which varies in size. On average, each group of gorillas can contain up to 10 members.
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Gorillas get sick like Humans
Gorillas can get sick easily just like humans. They are prone to human sicknesses as well, like pneumonia and other bacterial and viral diseases, when they are exposed to cold and wet climates for long periods of time.
Humans can make gorillas sick by sneezing close them. Gorillas are prone to human respiratory infections and even other sicknesses that can lead to sudden death among mountain gorillas. This is why tourists are advised to stay as far away from them as possible.
Gorillas are “Occasional” Carnivores
Gorillas are very curious animals and enjoy exploring. Although most of them predominantly feed on roots, fruits, and plants, occasionally when they are feeling a bit adventurous, they will engage in hunting small animals. But this happens very seldom.
Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla Beringei Beringei) are a small subspecies of the Eastern Gorilla. The species is also possibly split down further into two sub groups. Just over half of the existing Mountain Gorilla population live in the Virunga Mountains. These are a range of extinct volcanoes on the border of three African countries – Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The rest of the Mountain Gorillas live in Uganda, inside the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The gorilla subspecies was discovered in 1902. They have endured the turmoil of their home countries, battling years of war, habitat destruction, hunting, and disease. They barely held on and at one point it was estimated that Mountain Gorillas would be extinct by the end of the twentieth century.
Gentle Giants of the Jungle
They are still on the endangered list, with a population of just over a 1 000. A Mountain Gorilla can grow up to 5 ½ feet when standing on its hind legs. They weigh up 440 pounds. The Mountain Gorillas prefer living high up into the mountains, in forests at an elevations of between 8 000 to 13 000 feet. Compared to their other ape cousins, their fur is much thicker and denser. This helps them to cope with temperature drops in the mountains, oftentimes below freezing.
Because humans have invaded their territory more and more, Mountain Gorillas are forced to move higher up into the mountains. This exposes them to possible deadly weather conditions they are not accustomed to. Luckily for the past couple of decades extensive conservation efforts have been made to preserve the Mountain Gorilla population. They are still battling against poaching, civil conflict, and the ever growing human population. But Mountain Gorillas have fought back and in the last couple of years their numbers have increased.
Interesting Facts about Mountain Gorillas
If you are intrigued by these mighty apes, here are a few interesting things you might not have known about Mountain Gorillas.
- A Mountain Gorilla’s DNA is 98.5% similar to a human’s.
- They are the biggest primates on earth. Males can weigh up to 390 pounds and females about 250 pounds.
- A Mountain Gorilla displays human-like emotions. They also laugh when tickled and cry when hurt.
- Male Mountain Gorillas can devour up to 49 pounds of vegetables per day, and the females eat only slightly less than this.
- Mountain Gorillas don’t drink much water. They prefer hydrating from eating plants.
- The female Mountain Gorillas build special beds for their young ones, from branches and vine leaves.
- A baby Mountain Gorilla weighs about 4.5 pounds when born.
- Mountain Gorillas live in groups, sometimes including more than 20 members. A troop will stay together for over 20 years.
- Although Mountain Gorillas do have four limbs that they can use for walking, they don’t use all four regularly, preferring moving around on only two.
- They don’t have tails.
- Mountain Gorillas are extremely intelligent. In captivity they can learn sign language to engage in interactions with humans.
- They build new nests each night for sleeping, and sometimes also build a nest for an afternoon nap.
- Old male Mountain Gorillas grow a patch of silver hair on their back as they age. This is where the term “silverback” comes from.
- A Mountain Gorilla can live up to 54 years.
- A female Mountain Gorilla reaches the breeding stage after about 10 years. Their gestation period is eight to nine months.