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Mountain gorillas are one of the world’s most endangered species. With only some 700 – 800 species left in the wild, gorilla tracking is a hot selling item in East Africa.
The mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) is one of the two subspecies of the eastern gorilla. These magnificent giants live in small troops, each within its own defined boundaries and each with several females and their young being led by a single dominant male – the magnificent ‘Silverback’. Distinct from their cousins who live in the open plains and lowland forests of West Africa, mountain gorillas are normally found in at an altitude of between 1520m and 3650m.
There are three countries in the world where the few remaining mountain gorillas thrive. These are Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are two populations of mountain gorillas. One is found in the Virunga volcanic mountains of Central Africa, within three National Parks: Mgahinga National Park, in south-west Uganda; Parc National des Volcans (PNV), in north-west Rwanda; and Virunga National Park in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The other population is found in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Where do mountain gorillas live?
The world’s remaining mountain gorillas live in three countries spanning four national parks—Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Volcanoes National Park, and Virunga National Park.
As one of the great apes, mountain gorillas are the largest of the living primates. They have muscular arms, a massive chest, and broad hands and feet. Their thick black hair helps insulate them from cold weather.
Mountain gorillas live in groups of two to 40 led by the silverback, a dominant male that is the chief leader and protector. Almost 10 times stronger than the biggest American football players, a silverback protects its group from attacks by humans, leopards, or other gorillas—even if it means sacrificing his own life.
The female mountain gorilla usually gives birth when she turns 10 and has offspring every four or more years. Newborns are weak and weigh only about 4 pounds. Their first movements are awkward, like a human infant, but they develop almost twice as fast. Infants nurse and are gradually weaned after they turn 3 years old, when they are more independent.
Even though they eat like football players, their diet is made up of more than 100 different species of plants. And, they rarely need to drink since they get most of their water from those plants.
At both locations, gorilla trekking is limited to a daily maximum group size of eight people for each habituated gorilla family group. You will be accompanied by expert trackers and park rangers and, although sightings of gorillas can never be guaranteed, the fact that the family groups are tracked daily means that locating the families is easier.
Helping to protect the gorillas
Explore work closely with The Gorilla Organization to help protect the remaining 800 mountain gorillas. Each year we sponsor and take part in The Great Gorilla Run in London. Find out more about our partnership with The Gorilla Organization.