20 Facts About Mountain Gorillas

Mountain Gorillas are critically endangered, and as their name suggests, they are only found high up in the mountains in the Congo Basin. What sets them apart from the other great primates is their exceptionally thick fur which helps them survive in a habitat where temperatures often drop below freezing. Sadly, we’ve now only around a thousand mountain gorillas left in the wild. Keep on reading to learn 20 inspiring facts about Mountain Gorillas. 

Fact 1: Mountain Gorillas are one of the two subspecies of the eastern gorilla. 

  • There are two populations of Mountain Gorilla: One can be found in the national parks of Central Africa (Mgahinga, in south-west Uganda, Volcanoes, in north-west Rwanda, and Virunga, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo), and the other can be found in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. 

Fact 2: They are listed as endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as of 2018.

  • Not only are Mountain Gorillas threatened by the loss of their habitat due to human activity, they have also become victims of human violence.  As civil war rages in Africa, efforts to conserve Mountain Gorilla populations have been reduced.

Fact 3: There are only around 1,000 Mountain Gorillas left in the wild. 

  • Thankfully, conservation efforts have led to an increase in the overall population of the Mountain Gorilla in the Virungas and Bwindi areas.

Fact 4: Habitat loss is a major threat to Mountain Gorillas. 

  • A number of human activities including agriculture, illegal mining, and forest destruction for charcoal production have all contributed to the degradation of gorilla habitats. 
  • Gorillas also often get caught in snares (traps) laid out to trap other animals for bushmeat.

Fact 5: Descendants of ancestral monkeys and apes were found in Africa and Arabia 34-24 million years ago.

  • The fossil record found in east Africa suggests the presence of hominoid primates (apes) in the region about 22–32 million years ago.

Fact 6: They have thicker fur than their other gorilla cousins. 

  • Mountain Gorillas often have thicker and longer fur than other gorilla species so that they can live in colder temperatures. 
  • Another unique feature of Mountain Gorillas is their nose prints, which are unique to each individual. 

Fact 7: Humans share 15% of their DNA with Mountain Gorillas. 

  • Although, 98% of human DNA is indeed shared with chimpanzees.

Fact 8: Climate change is another threat to these mighty creatures. 

  • Mountain Gorillas adapt to warmer temperatures by moving to colder, higher elevations.
  • However, these areas are very popular with other gorillas, and there’s often little forest remaining, which makes it hard for Mountain Gorillas to find suitable shelter and to find food. 

Fact 9: Mountain Gorillas can climb trees, but are usually found on the ground in communities of up to 30 individuals. 

  • A large Mountain Gorilla troop can is usually made up of 20 individuals. Females, more frequently than males, leave their birth groups when they become reproductively mature. Their exit is a deliberate act to avoid inbreeding.

Fact 10: It’s the ‘troop leader’s’ job to organize activities like eating, nesting in leaves, and moving home.

  • The troop is led by one dominant, older adult male called a “silverback”.
  • Silverbacks feature a swath of silver hair that adorns his otherwise dark fur.

Fact 11: Female Mountain Gorillas can only give birth to one infant after a 9-month pregnancy period. 

  • Newborn gorillas are tiny compared to their powerful parents. Baby gorillas only weigh four pounds and for a period after birth, they just cling to their mothers’ fur and go around with them. They would not be able to survive otherwise.

Fact 12: Young Mountain Gorillas, from three to six years old, are just as playful as human children.

  • Much of their day is spent in play, climbing trees, chasing one another, and swinging from branches.

Fact 13: Male Mountain Gorillas typically weigh around 430 pounds and can stand at a height of 6 feet.

  • Males usually weigh twice as much as females. Females weigh about 220 pounds and are about 5 feet tall. 

Fact 14: Mountain Gorillas have a vegetarian diet. 

  • In the thick forests of central and west Africa, troops find plenty of food for their vegetarian diet. They eat roots, shoots, fruit, wild celery, tree bark, and pulp. 
  • Moreover, adult males can eat up to 34 kilograms of vegetation a day, while a female can eat as much as 18 kilograms.

Fact 15: Their home range size depends on the availability of food sources. 

  • George Schaller identified ten distinct zones when Mountain Gorillas were found, including the bamboo forests at 2,200-2,800 metres, the Hagenia forests at 2,800-3,400 metres, and the giant Senecio zone at 3,400-4,300 metres.

Fact 16: In 1988, Warner Bros. released an American drama film entitled “Gorillas in the Mist”. 

  • The film was directed by Michael Apted and starring Sigourney Weaver as the naturalist Dian Fossey. It tells the true story of her work in Rwanda with Mountain Gorillas and was nominated for 5 Academy Awards. 

Fact 17: Despite their brute appearance, Mountain Gorillas are actually quite shy and gentle creatures. 

  • Mountain Gorillas are as shy as they are strong. But when threatened, they can be aggressive. When angry they beat their chests and let out hostile grunts and roars.
  • When two Mountain Gorilla groups meet, the two silverbacks can sometimes engage in a fight to the death, using their canines to cause deep, gaping injuries.

Fact 18: They have 25 distinct vocalizations that they use to communicate in the group.

  • The most common vocalization made by gorillas are belches. It’s most commonly uttered as a long, di-syllabic, ‘throat-clearing’ type of sound (ummm-ummm) with the second note dropping down from the first. 
  • Belch vocalizations are used to convey a sense of contentment between individuals.

Fact 19: They are highly intelligent animals. 

  • Mountain Gorillas, along with chimpanzees, orangutan, and bonobos, are the closest living relatives of humans, with Mountain Gorillas having the most developed brain of the four. 

Fact 20: Mountain Gorillas have 32 teeth.

  • Humans have 32 teeth too!


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