Types Of Gorillas
There are four species / types of gorillas and each gorilla has its own u unique traits. Gorillas are the largest species of primates apparently on earth. Gorillas have a lot of behaviors common with those of human beings and this is a reason they share a lot of DNA percentage with human beings. There are two species of gorillas in the wild and these are the western gorilla and eastern gorilla. Two of its subspecies are highly recognized by scientists and these are mountain gorillas and eastern lowland gorillas. the western gorillas are subdivided into western lowland gorillas and cross river gorillas while the eastern gorillas are subdivided into mountain gorillas and eastern lowland gorillas.
In the 19th century, mountain gorillas were critically endangered with less than 900 mountain gorillas left in the wild. In the 2020 gorilla census, their population surpassed 1070. Mountain gorillas were almost becoming extinct in the 19th century but the effort of different gorilla conservation organizations and Dian Fossey an American primatologist made the extinction impossible. Dian Fossey played a big role in gorilla conservation by chasing away poachers, educating people about the role of gorillas, and also buying park rangers and wardens equipment to use during gorilla habituation. Dian Fossey was found dead in her hotel room on 26th December 1985.
Female mountain gorillas have 1-2 fertile days in a month and their gestation period is 8.5 months. The female mountain gorillas become sexually mature at a young age of about 10 years compared to male mountain gorillas. just like human beings, baby mountain gorillas weigh between 1.8kgs to 2 kgs and cling to their mother’s back until the age of 4 years while breastfeeding milk.
Mountain gorillas are led by a dominating silverback and this dictates the day to day activities of the group and is also in charge of its safety. Silverbacks always fight to protect family members even at the expense of their lives. Talking about feeding habits, mountain gorillas are herbivores animals feeding mainly on leaves, bamboo shoots, and stems, and on a few occasions, they supplement their diet with termites, insects, and ants.
Where to find mountain gorillas?
Mountain gorillas are only found in three countries of Africa namely Uganda, Rwanda, and DR Congo. Mountain gorillas cannot survive in zoos and that’s why they are only found on high elevations of tropical forests in Central and East Africa. More than half of the total population is finding their home in the thick forest of Bwindi impenetrable forest located in the southwestern part of Uganda. The Park has 20 habituated gorilla families in four different sectors of the park which are Nkuringo sector, Buhoma sector, Ruhija sector, and Rushaga sector.
Mgahinga national park located in the southwestern part of Uganda in Kisoro district has about 80 mountain gorillas with only one habituated gorilla family called Nyakagezi, volcanoes national park Rwanda located in the northwestern part of Rwanda has 20 habituated gorilla families but only 10 are open for trekking and the rest are for research purposes. Lastly Virunga national park DR Congo has 8 habituated gorilla families open for trekking.
The best time to trek mountain gorillas?
Mountain gorillas can be trekked at any time of the year just that a few months are better than the rest. the months of the dry season such as June, July, August, September, December, January, and February have been chosen to be the best months for gorilla trekking. It’s during these months that the vegetation in the park is not so thick making it clear to the mountain gorillas to be seen, the trails are dry and not slippery and the roads leading to the park are dry.
The rainy season of March, April, May, October, and November are also good for trekking in case you are a budget traveler reason being that the accommodation facilities in and around the park offer discounts. But the rainy season has challenges like the roads leading to the park are in bad conditions because of rain, the trekking trails are muddy and slippery.
The cost of gorilla trekking in Uganda, Rwanda, and DR Congo
For one to take part in gorilla trekking they must have a valid gorilla trekking permit and this is obtained through a registered tour operator or government body in charge of tourism and for this case, those of Uganda can be booked from Uganda Wildlife Authority, Rwanda from Rwanda Development Board and DR Congo from Virunga national park website.
Gorilla trekking permits for Uganda cost $700 for foreign nonresidents, $600 for foreign residents, and shs250,000 for East Africa throughout the year. Rwanda has the most expensive permits bought at $1500 per person per trek and DR Congo has the cheapest at $450 in the high season and $200 in the low season.
Eastern lowland gorillas
Eastern lowland gorillas are the biggest species of gorillas. their scientific name is called Gorilla Beringeri Graueri and it was derived from an Austrian scientist called Rudolf Grauer who was the first to identify these species in the nineteenth century.
Eastern lowland gorillas can only be found in Kahuzi Biega national park in the eastern part of DR Congo, Itombwe mountains in the south Kivu province of DR Congo, Tayna gorilla reserve located in the North Kivu Province of DR Congo, maiko national park, and Odzala-Kokua national park. The biggest threat to Eastern lowland gorillas is poaching, diseases, and habitat destruction.
Eastern lowland gorillas live in lowland and mountain tropical forests and can survive in zoos, unlike mountain gorillas. they differ from mountain gorillas by the dark fur coat which is shorter. Eastern lowland gorilla males weigh up to 210 kgs and the females weigh up to 140kgs.
What is the cost of eastern gorilla trekking in Kahuzi Biega national park?
Eastern gorilla trekking is the main activity done in Kahuzi Biega national park and the cost of gorilla trekking permits are $ 400 for foreign non-residents, $ 200 for foreign residents, $ 100 for East African residents, $ 20 for Congolese nationals.
What is the best time to trek gorillas in Kahuzi Biega national park?
Eastern lowland gorillas in Kahuzi Biega national park can be trekked at any time of the year but the best time to visit the park is during the dry season which happens from June, July, August, September, December, January, and February.
Western lowland gorillas
Western lowland gorillas are found in countries like Angola, Gabon, Cameroon, DR Congo, Equatorial Guinea. Male western lowland gorillas can weigh up to 120kgs and female western lowland gorillas can weigh up to 84kgs
Western lowland gorillas are the smallest subspecies of gorillas with parts of their body covered with greyish-brown fur. The females have silver hair on their backs and upper thighs as they mature. Western lowland gorillas can survive in the zoos, unlike mountain gorillas. Just like mountain gorillas, western lowland gorillas live in groups dominated by an adult male silverback that leads the groups, dictates activities of the day, owns all rights to decision making, and provides security to the family members. Female western lowland gorillas have a few fertile days in a month about 1-3 days and are sexually active at age of 9-10 years.
Cross River gorillas
Cross River gorillas are subspecies of mountain gorillas that were considered to be a new species in 1904 with little known about them until further research was carried out. Male cross river gorillas can grow up to 200 kgs while the males can weigh up to 100 kgs.
Cross River gorillas can be seen in the forests of Cameroon and Nigeria. They are the most threatened gorilla species with about 200 species are surviving in the wild. The biggest threat to cross river gorillas is habitat loss, diseases, genetic diversity, and poaching. You cannot trek cross rivers in the wild at the same time in the zoos.
What do gorillas eat?
Gorillas are mainly herbivores animals and they mainly feed on vegetation diet comprising of stems, bamboo shoots, and fruits. Mountain gorillas and western low land gorillas sometimes supplement their diet with insects, ants, and termites.
What to pack for gorilla trekking?
For one to have the best gorilla trekking experience, they need to come fully prepared with equipment required for gorilla trekking safari such as good waterproof hiking boots, sunscreen, insect repellents, garden gloves, walking stick, a lot of drinking water, a pair of gaiters, energy-giving snacks, long-sleeved clothes, face mask, sanitizer, a pair of binoculars, good quality camera and extra batteries, and so much more.