Although Uganda is rich in nature and culture, the country is particular known for the mountain gorilla safaris. It is the largest living primate, world’s most endangered ape and without a doubt the most fascinating creature that speaks to your imagination!
Find out more about these gentle giants and our mountain gorilla safaris!
Sample itineraries that include a visit to the mountain gorillas in Uganda or Rwanda:
Uganda Gorilla Safari
HABITAT OF THE GREAT APES
The gorilla is the largest of the great apes family, which includes the chimpanzee and orang-utan as well, and can be divided in three subspecies:
– Western Lowland Gorilla (gorilla gorilla gorilla); these type of gorillas are mostly seen in zoos. A population of about 50,000 lives in West Central Africa.
– Eastern Lowland Gorilla (gorilla gorilla graueri); about 2,500 live in the wild. They can be found in the eastern Congolese rainforest.
– Mountain Gorilla (gorilla gorilla beringei); the most endangered of all with only 720 remaining. They are living in the afro montane forests in northwest Rwanda, southwest Uganda and eastern DRC.
Obviously, the mountain gorilla is the most endangered specie of the great apes family. And because they can’t survive in captivity, you will never see a mountain gorilla in the zoo.
The mountain gorillas live in the almost impenetrable parts of the tropical forests in East-Africa. The entire world’s population is spread out over only two different places. Approximately 320 individuals inhabit the slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes, stretching out from the border area in Congo to Rwanda. The remaining 300 are found in Bwindi National Park in Uganda, covering an area of about 330 sq kms.
LIFESTYLE OF THE GORILLA
Gorillas live in groups consisting of about 25 to 35 members. Usually there is one leading male, accompanied by several females with their young.
When a baby gorilla is born it weighs on average 2.5 kg, which is about half the weight of a human baby. However, this baby develops twice as fast. Within 40 weeks it can walk and reaching 3 years it slowly becomes independent. At 6 years they are about 1.20 meter tall and weigh almost 70 kg. At this age the female gorilla matures, though they continue gaining weight for the next 4 years. Males on the other hand don’t reach maturity till they’re 10 years old. When their black back starts turning into grey it is time for them to leave the parental group. They wander alone or join other males for some time, before attracting females who will join them. In this way they form their own family.
Gorillas reproduce slowly, hence the world population doesn’t increase rapidly. Gestation period is approximately 8.5 months and gorilla mothers give birth to a baby once every 4 years. Unfortunately at least 30% doesn’t survive their first year because of diseases and accidents. Another situation that causes death among the baby gorillas is when their father dies and another silverback takes over. This new male often kills all the babies of his predecessor, securing his own genes in the posterity.
GORILLAS AND PEOPLE
Although the chimpanzee is our closest living relative on the planet, the gorilla resembles us in even more aspects. Their hands and feet are like ours, they spend more time on the ground and consequently gorillas are better able to walk. In fact, they share almost 98% of our DNA!
Gorillas have high social qualities and relationships within the family are very important. They express their feelings, varying from loving and hating to shame and jealousy, by at least 20 distinct vocalisations, all with a different meaning. Besides, beating on the chests or on the ground is a common form of communication as well. It is mainly the silverback who does this, in order to show his power and to intimidate others.
Aggression is rarely seen within gorilla families. Despite their impressive looks, they are extremely gentle and peace loving. In case of danger they stand up for each other and defend the weaker ones. Serious fights only might take place when two leaders of different groups meet each other.