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Why Do Gorillas Beat Their Chest?

Mountain gorillas beat their chests when there is a threat or danger. When the cheat beatings occur; it means that the gorilla is charging at a human being or any rival. This is one of the warning indicators that a gorilla is definitely going to attack if you don’t move away from its territory

Why Do Gorillas Beat Their Chest?

Why Do Gorillas Beat Their Chest? Gorillas beat their chests occasionally. So why do gorillas beat their chests or what are the repercussions of beating your chest at a gorilla?

  1. Mountain gorillas beat their chests when there is a threat or danger. When the cheat beatings occur; it means that the gorilla is charging at a human being or any rival. This is one of the warning indicators that a gorilla is definitely going to attack if you don’t move away from its territory.
  2. Mountain gorillas also beat their chests as a sign of victory. This may be after they have won a fight. They can also beat their chests to attract female gorillas and show them how strong they are. Mountain gorillas also beat their chests when communicating. The beating of the chest is commonly done by silverbacks. The silverbacks can beat the chest and walk away as a way of communicating with the group members to follow him up.
  3. Silverback gorillas also beat their chests when a young silverback is trying to challenge them. The dominating silverback will beat their chest to warm a young silverback and, in some cases, the young one may retreat or a fight can happen
  4. Less frequent encounters with human beings after completing the gorilla habituation process. They may get back to the wild state if human beings don’t visit them frequently. Uganda wildlife authority was worried during the lockdowns due to COVID-19 and had to send a group of rangers to these national parks to keep checking on these gorilla families to ensure that they remain comfortable with human beings in their presence and will always be ready for tourism.
  5. Gorillas can charge if a wild silverback is taking over the gorilla family. The wild silverback may charge towards human beings and this will force all members to follow suit to avoid annoying the new silverback.
  6. Making unexpected movements around gorillas will make the gorillas to charge. Gorillas may pretend not to see you but they are always watching everyone so if you move unnecessarily, it might make them think that you are a threat and they will charge at you
  7. Getting closer to the gorilla members can make a gorilla beat chest because gorilla groups remain wild even after completing the habituation process. If you get too close to a gorilla, it can see you as an enemy. During the briefing, you are strongly advised to keep a distance of 7 meters away from the nearest gorilla. If a gorilla comes near you gently move away.
  8. Making sustained eye contact with a gorilla can force it to beat its chest. In human beings, long eye contact means confidence and honesty but in gorillas, it is a threat and it can make a gorilla charge. Gorillas are very shy apes and subtle when making eye contact. Looking directly into the eyes of gorillas may irritate them to a point of charging.
  9. Loud noise by trackers while near the gorilla can also make gorillas beat their chest so it’s advised that you keep silent. The unnecessary noise can scare away the gorillas and see you as a threat. Trying to speak in low tones while asking questions to the ranger or use sign language when possible.
  10. A gorilla can beat their chest when you use a flash camera when taking photos of the group. The light from the camera irritates them. During the briefing, the rangers will advise you on the best way to take photos while with these gentle apes.
  11. A gorilla can beat their chest when they are in a bad mood or when they are sick. Those that lost during the battle may remain agitated and decide to finish their anger on you.
  12. There are also other things gorillas do as a sign of communication or threatening an enemy. These include tearing and throwing vegetation, grunting loudly, roars, laughing, hooting, sticking out their tongue, and stamping feet on the ground thunderously. Gorillas usually communicate to express happiness or distress when mating and communicating within the group.

What to do when gorillas charge

You simply need to follow instructions given to you by the rangers during the briefing to be safe since these creatures are not so aggressive. Gorillas are the largest apes and they are normally peaceful, gentle, calm, and have a charming character when makes them one of the interesting animals to visit while on your safari in Africa. Below are some of the things to do when a gorilla charges at you;

  • Crouch down: when a gorilla charges at you while carrying out gorilla trekking, it’s strongly advised to keep calm, respectful, quiet, and unthreatening by bending down, lower yourself on the ground and make yourself smaller than a silverback. This will make a silverback know that you are not a threat and it will not see any reason to keep charging at you.
  • Walk away steadily: when a gorilla charges at you, you are advised to walk away slowly not running because if you run, they might run after and attack you. you can as well as fall down on the ground to indicate that you have accepted the defeat.
  • Follow the guidelines of the ranger: before leading out to the forest, tourists are briefed at the beginning point about the expectations, dos, and don’ts while with gorillas in their natural habitats. Trekkers in any gorilla national park are led by ranger guides who will tell them what to do while in the presence of eth gorilla family.
  • Avoid looking directly into the eyes of the gorilla: gorillas are shy apes and therefore you should avoid looking directly into their eyes because it indicates that you are ready to challenge them therefore, they will charge at you.
  • Shout your teeth and shout loud: showing your teeth and shouting loud at a charged gorilla is only done when you are very close to them with no chance of stepping back. The ranger guide will tell you to shout loud and beat your chest just like a charged gorilla in order to scare them away.
  • Pretend to be an ape: when you have tried everything and it has failed, be brave and act like another ape in the wild by moving towards a charged gorilla, start breaking and throwing vegetation, plucking leaves, and napping on the ground to show the gorilla that you are not hostile and aggressive.
  • Keep a distance: when trekking mountain gorillas rangers will keep telling you to keep a distance of 7 meters and you shouldn’t touch them when they come around you because they are wild and coming close to them may make them charge at you and might lead to a fight when trying to defend their group.

Other gorilla trekking guidelines

During the pre-gorilla trekking briefing, the trekkers are taught about the rules and regulations. These rules and regulations are put in place to make sure the trekkers and the gorillas are both safe. Some of the rules include

  • Don’t trek when sick
  • Avoid the use of flashlight cameras
  • Avoid eating or smoking near the gorillas
  • Wear your mask before approaching a gorilla
  • Avoid littering in the park
  • Stay in your group and never walk alone in the jungle
  • Keep calm, and silent when around gorillas

About mountain gorillas

Mountain gorillas are gentle apes and one of the two subspecies of eastern gorillas. they are the largest primates and are listed as endangered by the IUCN. There are four national parks in Africa where you can find mountain gorillas and these namely Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and Mgahinga gorilla park in the southwestern part of Uganda, Volcanoes national park in the northwestern part of Rwanda, and Virunga national park in the northeastern part of DR Congo.

The Bwindi impenetrable forest has the highest number of mountain gorillas believed to be more than a half and these stay in 20 habituated gorilla families, volcanoes national park Rwanda has only 10 habituated gorilla families, Virunga national park has 8 habituated gorilla families and Mgahinga national park has only 1 habituated gorilla family.

Price of gorilla permits

Gorilla trekking permits for Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and Mgahinga gorilla park cost $700 for foreign nonresidents, $600 for foreign residents, and shs250,000 residents of East Africa. Gorilla habituation permits cost $1500 and this is only done in the Rushaga sector of the northern side of Bwindi impenetrable forest national park. For the case of Rwanda, gorilla permits cost $1500 and in DR Congo the permits cost $450 in the high season and $200 in the low season.

What is the best time to visit gorillas?

The high season

The best time to visit mountain gorillas is the high season when the rains are less making it favorable for tourists to trek mountain gorillas in the wild. The high season happens in the months of December to February and June to September where the rainfall is little or no. During this season the tourists are not affected by weather making the trekking memorable. The roads leading to the national parks are also accessible and the trails are passable.

The low season

The low season is also not bad for trekking but it comes with a lot of rainfalls in the months of March, April, May, October, and November. But this season is good for budget travelers because the lodges are always giving discounts.

What to carry for gorilla trekking?

First of all, for one to enjoy mountain gorilla trekking, they need to be physically fit because gorillas stay on high elevations which requires one to hike so you will need to come with good waterproof hiking boots, a warm sweater, sunscreen, rain jacket, a pair of gaiters, garden gloves, a lot of drinking water, energy-giving snacks, long-sleeved clothes, a pair of binoculars, face mask, sanitizer, good quality camera, insect repellents, and so much more.