Mountain gorillas are the world’s largest primates and can only be seen in the wild. There are only around 1000 of them left in the world. Gorilla trekking is one of the world’s greatest wildlife experiences and I’d highly recommend it.

After checking out these interesting mountain gorilla facts I’m sure you’ll want to set off and see these majestic animals face to face.

Mountain Gorilla Facts

Why is the Mountain Gorilla Endangered?

Habitat change was the main reason that mountain gorillas are now endangered. Most of this happened long before human habitat destruction.

These are enormous animals – a silverback gorilla can eat 25 kg of vegetation every day! They need space to feed and thrive. With only three locations left it’s natural that the mountain gorilla became endangered.

However, human impact has exacerbated threats to their survival. Here are some important reasons why the mountain gorilla is now critically endangered.

  • Habitat Destruction – Their rainforest homes are slowly being encroached by human settlements and destroyed for growing crops. Forest clearance and degradation is the number one threat to the gorilla’s survival.
  • Poaching – Poaching and hunting remain a serious threat for the gorillas’ survival. From the 1950s to 1980s various Western zoos paid poachers to steal baby and juvenile mountain gorillas; poachers killed their parents in the process.
  • Hunting – When the subspecies was discovered by colonialists in 1902 it became the most prized hunting trophy. Even today mountain gorillas are hunted for trophies or body parts that are used as medicine or lucky charms.
  • Civil War and Conflict – This corner of Africa continues to be unstable. Gorillas were threatened by the fallout from the 1994 Rwanda genocide and continue to be threatened by civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Traps and Snares – Gorillas often get caught in traps and snares intended for other forest animals, particularly antelope. This is known as illegal bushmeat hunting.
  • Illegal Mining – A more recent threat has come from mining companies drilling for oil, especially in and around Virunga National Park. This is the focus of an excellent Netflix documentary – Virunga.

Other Threats to Gorilla Populations

  • Incursions by militia.
  • Habitat destruction for firewood and gold-mining. This causes habitat fragmentation.
  • Transmission of diseases from surrounding human populations (human-wildlife disease transmission).
  • Illegal cattle grazing.
  • Illegal bushmeat hunting and poaching (illegal pet trade).

How strong is a silverback gorilla?

A silverback gorilla is more than ten times stronger than an adult male human. Some silverback gorillas may be closer to 15 times stronger.

Silverback gorillas have denser more efficient muscles, so although they don’t weight ten times as much, they are far far stronger.

How much does a silverback gorilla weigh?

Between 135 – 200kgs (approx 300 – 450lbs). Mature females are only around half this weight.

Scientific Name

The Latin name for mountain gorillas is Gorilla beringei beringei.

Habitat

The mountain gorilla inhabits the tropical rainforests of Central and Eastern Africa; in Rwanda (Volcanoes National Park), the Democratic Republic of Congo (Virunga National Park), and Uganda (Mgahinga Gorilla National Park & Bwindi Impenetrable Forest).

Species

The mountain gorilla is one of the two subspecies of the Eastern Gorilla, that also comprises the Eastern Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri). The latter subspecies is most common, with an estimated population standing at approximately 4000 individuals.

DNA

The DNA of gorillas is 98%-99% identical to that of a human, and they are the next closest living relatives to humans after the bonobo and common chimpanzee species.

Diet

Mountain gorillas are mainly vegetarian. They feed on fruits, leaves and shoots. They may also eat larvae, snails and ants (their favourite delicacy 🙂 ).

Population

The total population of mountain gorillas worldwide is estimated at 1000, half of which belongs to Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Bwindi also happens to be a UNESCO declared World Heritage Site.

Other Key “Did You Know” Facts

  • The name gorilla is derived from the Greek word “Gorillai” meaning hairy women.
  • Only 10 countries worldwide host naturally occurring gorilla populations.
  • Mountain gorillas live in stable family groups that vary from 5 to as many as 30+ individuals.
  • They have a “patriarchal” social unit: each unit is dominated by a mature silverback male.
  • Adult males can weigh up to 200 kg, and eat as much as 25 kg of food per day.
  • Females are relatively smaller in size, and their average weight is +/- 90 kg.
  • Just like humans, the mountain gorilla has individual and unique finger prints.
  • Unlike humans, sex is only used for reproductive purposes, not for leisure (nor pleasure 🙂 ).
  • Females usually conceive when they are 8-9 years old, and pregnancy lasts 8 and-a-half months.
  • Every evening, mountain gorillas go to sleep in a brand new bed made out of fresh leaves and twigs.

Conservation

Conservation Status: Critically endangered species. Mountain gorillas are not known to survive outside their natural habitat. In other words, don’t expect to see them in zoos.

Support the Mountain Gorillas

Friend a Gorilla.

International Gorilla Conservation Programme.

The Gorilla Organization.