Gorilla species gorilla , gorilla facts/ gorilla tours
Gorilla species : Gorillas are some of the wildlife species that have often been misunderstood by the human race. For so long, we have always regarded gorillas as dangerous and aggressive primates which is not the case. In fact, gorillas are usually shy and often keep to themselves. They are also social apes and live in groups of about 5 to 30 members depending on the species. Gorillas are endemic to the African Continent and usually live lowland swamp forests, montane forests and tropical rain forests.
Gorillas contribute a lot to the tourism industry in Africa, with tourists flying into the continent just to catch a glimpse of these majestic apes in their natural habitats. There are two species of gorillas and these include; the Western gorillas (Gorilla gorilla) and the Eastern gorilla, which is also known as ‘Gorilla Beringei.’ Both these gorilla species comprise two gorilla subspecies and these include;
Western Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla):
Under the western gorilla, there are two subspecies which include;
- Western Lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla).
- Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli).
Western gorillas live in both lowland swamp forests and montane forests, in altitudes not exceeding 1,600 meters above sea level. The Western lowland gorilla live in swamp and lowland forests ranging up to 1,600 meter, while Cross River gorillas live in low-lying and sub-montane forests ranging from 150-1,600 meters above sea level. The Western gorilla species can be found living within forests in West Central Africa.
The Eastern Gorilla (Gorilla beringei):
The Eastern gorilla is the second species of gorillas living in the world. Under these species, there are two subspecies which include;
- Eastern Lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri).
- Mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei).
The Eastern gorilla is the most commonly sought after gorilla species and they can be found in East Central Africa. Eastern gorillas live in montane and sub montane forests between 650-4,000 meters above sea level.
Both the Western gorillas and Eastern gorillas are listed as critically endangered species under the IUCN Red List. Their survival in the wild is being threatened by factors such as; habitat loss, poaching, large scale deforestation, and civil wars among others.
The Eastern gorilla is darker in color compared to the Western gorilla, with the Mountain gorilla being the darkest subspecies of all the four subspecies. Mountain gorillas also have the thickest hair while the western lowland gorilla can have brown, grayish hair with an almost reddish forehead. In addition to this, the eastern gorilla has a longer face and wider/broader chest compared to the western gorilla.
On average gorillas can weigh up to 219kg for the adult males and about 113kg for adult female gorillas. Adult male gorillas living in the wild can weigh between 136 to 195 kg, while adult females on average weigh half as much as adult males at 68 to 113 kg.
Western Gorillas have an average height of 5 feet 1 inch for adult male gorillas, while adult females have an average height of 4 feet 5 inches. Mature male western gorillas in the wild can weigh up to 346 pounds (157 kg), while adult females have an average weight of 176 pounds (80 kg).
The Eastern gorillas on the other hand can reach an average height of about 5-6 feet for mature males and between 4-5 feet for mature females. Eastern adult male gorillas weigh between 309-453 pounds (140 to 206 kg), while mature females can weigh between 200-220 pounds (90 to 100 kg).
According to statistics, the populations of both the western and eastern gorillas vary depending on the different subspecies. The western lowland gorilla populations are estimated to be around 95,000 individuals in the wild, and Cross river gorillas have an estimated population ranging between 250 to 300 individuals. Mountain gorilla populations have increased with the recent 2018 population census showing that there are 1004 mountain gorillas living in the wild today. Eastern lowland gorilla populations are believed to be less than 3,800 individuals in the wild.
Distribution of the species:
Western gorillas live in west central Africa while the Eastern gorillas live in east central Africa. The western lowland gorillas can be found in counties like; Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Cross River gorilla can be found in Cameroon and Nigeria. Eastern lowland gorillas can only be found in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mountain gorillas live in countries like; Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These are the only three countries in the world where tourists can see mountain gorillas in the wild. These sub-species are also the most trekked gorilla subspecies of all.
Gorilla Trekking Tours in Africa:
Gorilla trekking tours in Africa are very popular and lots of tourists fly into the continent in order to see gorillas in the wild. Majority of the tour operators in east and central Africa are selling gorilla tours to tourists travelling to countries such as Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC. There are a wide variety of gorilla tour packages which carter for all kinds of tourists ranging from Budget to mid-range and luxury travelers.
Visitors interested in seeing mountain gorillas can do so in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Virunga National Park in Congo and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. In case you are interested in seeing both the western and eastern lowland gorillas, you can book a gorilla trekking tour in Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
What is Gorilla Trekking?
Gorilla trekking is an activity that involves visitors trekking and track a specific gorilla group/family. The activity involves trekkers hiking in forests, identifying fresh gorilla footprints, fecal matter, food left overs, and fresh gorilla nests in order to locate a given gorilla group.
Gorilla trekking can be a very vigorous activity hence it requires trekkers to be in good health conditions both physically and mentally. The activity is restricted to individuals who are aged 15 years and above. Visitors who want to trek gorillas and have conical illnesses are advised not to trek gorillas unless permitted by a qualified medical personnel. Gorilla trekking for disable persons is also available in most of the national parks where the activity is offered.
Is gorilla trekking safe?
Gorilla trekking is safe to do in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. Visitors trekking gorillas are always briefed before you being tracking, so that those tracking gorillas know how to behave while in the midst of the gorillas. In addition to this, gorilla trekkers are usually accompanied by an experienced guide and armed park rangers to ensure that trekkers are safe while tracking gorillas and also when in the presence of the gorillas.
For those who decide to trek mountain gorillas in Congo’s Virunga National Park, you will be picked from Goma and transported to and from the national park in an armored convoy that is provided by Virunga National Park.
How different is Gorilla Trekking from Gorilla Habituation?
There is much difference between gorilla trekking and gorilla habituation except in the time that tourists get to spend with the gorillas. While gorilla trekking entails visitors spending only an hour with the gorillas, tourists doing gorilla habituation get to spend an entire day (more than 6 hours) with the gorillas. In addition to this, gorilla habituation usually takes a period of 2-3 years to make a specific gorilla group get used/ familiar to human beings.
The other difference between gorilla trekking and gorilla habituation is that the latter involves tourist trekking gorillas in small groups of a maximum of 4 people per gorilla group. On the other hand, gorilla trekking can be done by tourists in groups of a maximum of 8 members per group, per gorilla family/group.
There are quite a number of habituated mountain gorilla families/groups in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, Virunga National Park in Congo and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. However, in Uganda alone, there are only two gorilla groups in Bwindi national park where gorilla habituation is carried out; and these include Nkuringo and Rushaga.
Best time to go gorilla trekking.
Gorilla trekking can be done all throughout the year, but the activity is best done in the dry seasons which are in June, July, August, September and December, January, and February. During the dry season, the gorilla habitats are kept dry which makes it easier for trekkers to hike through the dense vegetation and steep slopes in search for the gorillas.
Gorillas are very social apes and are not as dangerous as we are often made to believe. Gorilla trekking tours are one way of helping us gain a better understanding of gorillas and why we should join efforts in conserving these primate species for generations to come.
Contact us and book a gorilla trekking tour in Uganda, Rwanda or Congo.