Mountain gorillas are a few most fascinating wild creatures on earth. They remain not more than 1004 and only exist in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga National Park in southwestern Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in northwestern Rwanda and the Virunga National Park in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Mountain gorillas are the largest primate species on earth and an hour with them is what is best described as a magical encounter.
Mountain gorillas thrive in a group or families of about 10 to 30 less or more. Each gorilla family is headed by a mature male gorilla which is also called silverback and a group consists of females, black backs, juveniles and many more.
Female mountain gorillas give birth at 10 years and breeding starts between 12 and 15. They can conceive within 2 to 3 days and can give birth after each 4 to 5 years. Usually, they give birth to single baby gorilla and on rare occasions, they give birth to twins.
They have short trunks that are thick with broad chests and shoulders, the eyes and ears are dwarfed by a large muscle and head. While on trek to see these creatures, you will be amazed by their massive bodies as they blend their black colors with the greener environment.
They communicate through different forms including screaming and stand on their hind legs, grab foliage, fetch ants in holes using stems, stamp their feet while beat their chests, gallop in a mock attack in all fours, strike the ground with their palms then stuff food in the mouth.
The newly born gorilla is like human baby but can weigh approximately 4 pounds. They come in small size and weak, they suckle for 1 year and weaned at 3 to 4 years when they can live independently. Babies cling to their mother backs. The gestation period is about 8.5 months just like humans.
Their major predators include mainly leopards and man. However, they are poached for their meat; they are sold as pets especially babies and others. Most of these creatures get trapped in set wire snares that are mainly targeted to trap small species especially antelopes.
They consume much food mainly depending on plant species such as bamboo shoots, stems, fruits as well as some insects.
They are gentle, humble and powerful-six times compared to humans, intelligent and peaceful but can get irritated or in case they sense danger. They come in thick, dark and long hair on their skins which help them to stay warm in high cold elevation. Their hair helps regulate body temperatures the fact that they live at elevation of about 2200 to 4500 meters.
The other unique trait of mountain gorillas is the nose prints; they are very susceptible to human infectious diseases the fact that they share about 98 percent of their DNA with humans. These creatures are susceptible to diseases such as Ebola, cold, pneumonia a mention but a few.
The male mountain gorillas are heavier than females with bony crests on top and back of their skulls. Males weigh about 155 kilograms with a height of 1.73 cm. They feature about 32 teeth like humans that help them break down the vegetation.
Their lifespan ranges up to 30 to 40 years in the wild, depending mainly on vegetation, fruits, leaves and others. But due to continued threats these creatures are still at a high risk of extinction. They are still threatened by poaching, habitat loss due to human encroachment on their habitat, spread of human infectious diseases and other factors.
How Do Gorillas Sleep?
One would wonder how the heavy mammals spend their overnights in the environments where they live since they are living in the rain forests. Like human beings, they love to sleep and make sure that when time for sleeping draws near, they have somewhere comfortable and this is done by constructing nests. Regardless of weather conditions, gorillas can build their nests every day.
They move daily to a different location to spend the night making nests from twigs and leaves. Some human have found them quite comfortable, even enough to fall asleep in. Gorillas enter into their nests at least one hour before the dark however on rare cases they also build nests for midday rests. Every evening, mountain gorillas build a new nest no matter how many meters it may be from the nest they used at night before. Each animal constructs its own nest and only infants sleep in the same nest as their mothers.
They sleep in nests which they build on the ground or in trees depending on various variables that is vegetation and security wise. Tree or ground nests are built mainly in forks of branches. For this nest constructed has to carry the weight of the mountain gorillas. Female gorillas and the young prefer sleeping in the trees unlike the male. These various nests are always seen while carrying out gorilla trekking in Bwindi and Mgahinga in Uganda or Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
Food and Diet
Gorillas are primarily herbivores; the majority of their diet is composed of the leaves, shoots and stems of 142 plant species. It also feeds on bark roots, flowers, and fruit as well as small invertebrates. Adult males can eat up to 34 kilograms of vegetation a day, while a female can eat as much as 18 kilograms. Most mountain gorillas take a little nap around a lunch time.
Gorillas stick to a mainly vegetarian diet, feeding on stems, bamboo shoots and fruits. Western lowland gorillas, however, also have an appetite for termites and ants, and break open termite nests to eat the larvae.
Studies in the field have suggested that the gorilla shows both intra population and seasonal variation in diet as well as daily distance traveled. The western lowlands gorilla eats a variety of fruits, somewhat similar to what the chimpanzee eats in the forests. The strategies that the gorilla employs are dependent on its food resources. This isn’t surprising because the gorilla isn’t a migrating species. When fruits are available in large quantities, lowland gorillas travel long distances to search for food, and when fruits are scarce, gorillas travel less and consume primarily low-quality terrestrial foods. This strategy probably enables the gorillas to live in forests.
All gorillas eat vegetation. Most of their food consists of shoots, young leaves and other foliage, bark, roots, as well as various kinds of fruits and seeds. Large quantities of this non-nutritious food with its high cellulose content are naturally required so that the animals spend a great deal of their time feeding. Due to their vegetarian diet, they do not require much drinking water.
Do Gorillas Climb Trees?
Gorillas are can climb trees. However given their weight, they always stay on the ground. There have been several accidents where gorillas fell off the trees. The most recent incident is when a silverback in Bwindi Impenetrable fell off the tree and died.
Gorillas Are Ground Dwellers
Gorillas mainly live on the ground. They spend only 5-20% of the day in trees, whereas chimpanzees spend 47-61% of the day above the ground. But gorillas do like to climb in order to play or to harvest fruit. Almost always they climb quad-rupedally and it is very rare for them to jump from branch to branch. Young gorillas spend more time than adults in trees and like to play form there. Silverback males do not often move above the ground because of their weight although they will climb high into fruiting trees if the branches can carry their weight. There is more movement if there is scarcity of food, it may be hard to easily spot the gorillas. Again during the rainy season, the mountain gorillas are dormant with less activity to do. The gorillas move from one place to another looking for food, sometimes plants and trees change with the weather. Adult mountain gorillas feed on about 60 pounds of vegetation daily.
Primarily, gorillas dwell on ground and can only spend 5 – 20% of their daytime in trees in contrast to their primate counterparts – Chimpanzees which spend 47 – 67% of their time in trees. They tend to climb to take advantage of fruits or play around in the tree branches. Gorillas tend to climb quad-rupedally and they rarely jump from branch to branch.
Do Gorillas Cry?
Among animals, it is virtually impossible to tell if their tears are the result of emotions or merely caused by eye irritation. Most scientists agree, however, that humans are the only animals who produce emotional tears.
While animals may not weep like humans, they do, however, emit cries which seem to indicate emotional distress. Baby animals of all kinds will vocalize when separated from their mothers. Baby elephants in particular produce a very sad keening sound which sounds like weeping. Hunters and some wildlife experts have claimed that the sound of a bear cub cries when separated from its mother is remarkably similar to the cries of a human baby.
In these cases, the cries probably serve as a form of direct communication with the mother. This is done daily among the mountain gorillas in the Virunga Mountains. They leave their sleeping places when the sun rises early in the morning with the exceptional when it is cold when they often stay longer in their nests.
It should be noted that gorillas show sorrowness in case a family dies. This has been observed in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. According to the local guides, in case a member dies, the group can stay in the same location for about a week.