Mountain Gorillas

One of the rarest species that is found in some parts of the globe is the Mountain Gorilla which is popularly known as Rwanda. The scientific name of this species is Gorilla beringei beringei . The Mountain Gorilla is one of the two sub-species of the eastern gorilla. It has two populations. One of them is found in the Virunga volcanic mountains of Central Africa. The said area falls within three National parks: Mgahinga, in South-west Uganda; Volcanoes, in the north-west Rwanda; and Virunga in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) . The other is found in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park of Uganda.

Some primatologists opine that the Bwindi population available in Uganda may be a separate sub-species but their opinion has not been taken for granted as no consummate description about them has yet been recorded. It has been estimated that the total number of mountain gorillas stands at 880 as per the survey conducted in the month of November, 2012. The unique capacity of the mountain gorilla to live in colder temperature lies in their possession of fur which is often thicker and longer than that of the other gorilla species. The identification of the gorillas can be done by the nose prints unique to each individual. Males, at a mean weight of 195 kg(430lb) and upright standing height of 150 cm(59in) usually weigh twice as much as the females, at a mean of 100 kg(220lb) and a height of 130 cm(51in). This sub-species is a bit smaller in size than the Eastern Lowland Gorilla which is the other sub-species of Eastern Gorilla. Adult males have their heads of a conical shape with bulging bony crests on the top and back of their skull. These crests anchor the powerful temporal is muscles which attach to the lower jaw (mandible). But the crests of the adult females are less pronounced. The mountain gorilla has dark brown eyes framed by a black ring around the iris, true to its type. Since a saddle of grey or silver-colored hair develops on the back of adult males with growing age, they are called silver-backs. The tallest silverback recorded was a 1.94m (6ft 4in) individual shot in Alimbongo, northern Kivu in May 1938. The heaviest was a 1.83m (6ft) silverback shot in Ambam, Cameroon which weighed about 266 kg (586lb) . The mountain gorilla is primarily terrestrial and quadrupedal. However, it will climb the fruiting trees if the branches are capable of carrying its weight, and it can run bipedally up to 6m (20ft). Its arms are longer than its legs. It moves by knuckle-walking supporting its weight on the backs of its curved fingers rather than its palms.

It inhabits the Albertine Rift and the Virgunga Volcanoes, ranging in altitude from 2200-4300 meters. Most of them are available on the slopes of three of the dormant volcanoes, namely- Karisimbi, Mikeno and Visoke . The mountain gorilla is primarily a herbivore. It feeds on the leaves, shoots, stems, bark, roots, flowers and fruits of 142 plant species. The home range size is influenced by the availability of food sources and usually includes several vegetation zones. The mountain gorilla spends most of its time in the Hagenia forests where gallium vines are available all the year round. But it travels to bamboo forests only for a few months and climbs the subalpine region to eat the soft centers of giant senecio trees. The population of mountain gorillas faces the danger of extinction due to human violence, habitat loss and poaching. But many initiatives have been taken for their conservation. The gorillas are usually found on the ground in a troop of up to 30 individuals which includes young males, females and their offspring. They are led by one dominant older adult male having a silverback. The leader organizes troop activities like eating, nesting in leaves, and moving about the groups 0.75 to 16 square-mile home range. The interesting thing about their breeding is that female gorillas give birth to one infant at a time after a pregnancy of nearly nine months and the new-born weighs four pounds (two kilograms). The young gorillas ranging from 3 to 6 years spend much of their day in play, climbing trees, chasing one another and swinging from branches. Interestingly, gorillas have displayed significant intelligence and have even learned simple human sign language. There has been slow but steady growth in the population of mountain gorillas over the years. Despite the recent population growth, they remain threatened and listed as Critically Endangered on IUCN Red List and are dependent on conservation efforts to survive.