25+ Fun Facts To Know About Mountain Gorillas

Mountain gorillas are among the most fascinating animals that live in the forested wilderness of Africa. As an endangered species that is so close to humans as far as genetics are concerned, gorillas are also one of tourism’s must-see attractions.

Mountain gorillas are a subspecies of the Eastern gorilla. The other subspecies is the Eastern lowland gorilla.

What makes the mountain gorillas more intriguing than the other gorillas, is the fact that they cannot survive in a captive environment of the zoo. This means that all those other gorillas in wildlife zoos are not mountain gorillas. Efforts to keep mountain gorillas in a zoo environment failed, and they can only survive in their natural environment.

Seeing gorillas in person – with your own eyes is an experience that everyone describes in their way. And that is the magic. They have personalities, moods, and subtleties that make every encounter different.

Before you can see these mountain gorillas, here are some interesting facts that we hope are fun to learn. And when you do see gorillas, we hope you will be looking out for these facts and habits as well as many more.

Physical Fats About Mountain Gorillas

1. Gorillas are big.

It is well known that gorillas are big. Gorillas are the biggest primates. Averagely, an adult mountain gorilla stands at 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.8 metres) in height. This is as tall as Arnold Schwarzenegger. Silverbacks will be bigger than this average estimate.

A silverback mountain gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park – Uganda

2. Longer Arms

Their arms are longer than their legs. This is why they usually walk on all fours. They walk on the knuckles of their hands – which is appropriately called knuckle-walking. Gorillas can also walk with only their legs (as humans do) but knuckle-walking gives them more balance to climb trees and steep hills.

3. Longer, thicker hair.

Their longer and thicker body hair helps them stay in cold altitude places. Living in tropical climates which are wet much of the year, gorillas can stay warm due to the hair covering their bodies. This is even more vital for the mountain gorillas that stay in high altitude places of around 2,320 meters above sea level.

4. Grey hair on the back.

A mature male’s hair turns grey; starting with the back- hence the name silverback. After a young male gorilla (black back) matures, the hair on its back starts to turn grey/silver. This is around the age of 10 to12 years.

5. Eye Colour

A mountain gorilla’s eyes are dark brown, framed by a dark ring around the iris. Gorillas are said to have a singular eye colour of dark brown, unlike humans who have many eye colours. Some domestic animals also have more than one eyes colour, but this is rare in wild animals.

6. Unique Fingerprints and Nose Patterns

They have unique fingerprints, like humans. Given how closely related we are; this shouldn’t come as a shocking revelation. With the many technologies that are utilizing fingerprint reading, this couldn’t be more puzzling and worthwhile.

Gorillas also have a unique nose pattern that is specific to each gorilla. Since you won’t see their fingers much closer, the nose pattern (noseprint) is what you can use to distinguish between two similar-looking individuals.

Strength

7. Gorilla Weight.

The biggest gorillas (Eastern lowland) can weigh up to 250 Kg (550 pounds). With the average human weight ranging from 65 Kilograms to 70 Kilograms, the Eastern lowland gorillas weigh more than 3 people put together.

8. Biteforce of a gorilla.

Gorillas have a bite force of around 1,300 PSI (Per Square Inch). This is considerably more than that of a lion or tiger at around 1,000 PSI.

In comparison, humans range from 150 to 200 PSI; meaning that a gorilla’s bite force is more than that of 6 humans put together. Given that gorillas are mostly herbivorous and very gentle; this strong bite force comes as a surprise.

Habitat

9. Limited habitat

Mountain gorillas are only found in Rwanda, DRC, and Uganda. This is in either the Virunga volcanic range (shared by Rwanda, Congo, and Uganda) or the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.

Mountain gorillas are among the most endangered of animals with numbers at just around 1000. Previous numbers have been recorded much lower and their population has risen in recent years.

Mountain gorillas cannot survive in any other environment besides their natural habitat. Check out this article on where mountain gorillas live and their habitat.

Social Facts About Gorillas

10. Life Expectancy

Gorillas live for 35 to 40 years in the wild. Humans are now able to live much longer, gorillas are still living as long as we were living before modern medicine and mechanization of work.

Like humans, gorillas mostly die of disease, accidents and natural causes.

11. Gorilla Families

Gorillas live in small family groups called troops. These gorilla families usually consist of about 10 individuals, with one silverback as the leader.

Gorilla groups can be smaller or larger than this average, but they cannot have more than one dominant silverback.

12. Dominant Silverback

Each gorilla family is headed by a silverback. With the death of a silverback, the females look for another family to join. This among other things, ensures their safety and protection.

13. Family Safety.

Silverbacks are in charge of ensuring the troop’s safety. Every troop is headed by a silverback which is in charge of leading the whole troop to different places for food. More importantly, the silverback’s role is in protecting the members of his troop even if he has to die while doing it.

14. Sleeping Nests

Gorillas are nomadic and build their sleeping nests every day from branches and grass. Gorillas don’t stay in one place for prolonged periods. They are always on the move for food every morning.

At the end of the day, they build sleeping nests with either tree branches or leaves where they sleep and move on the next day – abandoning the nests altogether. Gorillas will occasionally build their sleeping nests up in the trees – especially in bamboo.

15. Gorillas are primarily herbivores.

Mountain gorillas eat barks, roots, small branches, fruits, piths and tree pulp. They are not complete vegetarians though, they also eat ants and insects on occasion. Bamboo is one of the many plants they eat as either shoots or stems.

The fruit and vegetable diet keeps them healthy from some of our ‘modern’ ailments. Here is our detailed article about what gorillas like to eat

15. How much a gorilla eats

An adult gorilla eats about 25 kilograms (40 pounds) of vegetation (10% of its body weight).

On average, a human eats 4 pounds every day, meaning that a single grown gorilla eats as much as ten people in a day. This means that 5 gorillas will eat 73000 pounds (about 33 tons) of food in one year.

16. Feeding time

They mostly feed during the morning and evening. Gorillas will feed in the morning and then nap during the day as the infants play and snack around until the evening when they all eat some more.

Gorilla trekking usually happens in the morning and you can catch them eating and also resting and playing afterwards – when time allows.

17. Reproduction

They take 8.5 months to have babies. That is two weeks less than the gestation period of humans. Why that gap of 2 weeks exists, we have no idea. We like to think scientists will find out and tell us.

Gorillas usually produce one baby at a time, but will rarely give birth to twins. Female gorillas produce an average of 3 babies in their lifetime.

Baby Gorillas are called infants and nurse until they are about 3 years old. By their third year, these infants can walk and feed on their own – without the mother’s help

18. Casting out old males

Male gorillas are cast out of the family once they are old enough to mate (10 years). This is because the silverback has exclusive rights to all the female gorillas.

The male then goes off to find its own female or females to start a family of its own.

Comparison To Humans

19. Gorillas are Great Apes

Gorillas are primates – just like monkeys and us (humans).

While it is like to confuse and classify them with monkeys, the main distinguishing difference is the absence of a tail. They are also great apes, like humans and chimpanzees because of their intelligence and have developed brains.

20. Stronger than a human

The average gorilla is approximately 6 times stronger than an average human. Well, they work out every day and we (mostly) don’t.

If you want to dig deep into how humans and gorillas compare, just Google and the overwhelming discussions that have happened will draw you in – especially of credit or Quora where the forums are very active.

21. 98.4% DNA Match

After chimps and bonobos, gorillas are the next animals to humans in terms of their genetic makeup. They can laugh, express sadness as well as other emotions.

Humans and gorillas share 98.4% of our DNA. A separation of just 1.6%. Given that they can use tools, learn the language, express emotions as well as get used to and friendly to a person, they are indeed our close cousins.

22. Learning Language

Gorillas can learn a language, use basic tools and even make some tools. With enough guided human interaction, gorillas (both in the wild and zoos) have shown improved language skills in both sign language and spoken language.

Gorillas can learn up to 2000 words

23. Catching Human Diseases

Gorillas can catch human diseases. Gorillas will catch and suffer from most human illnesses. This is why coughing or sneezing is prohibited during a gorilla trekking trip. If it can’t be avoided while in the forest, one is usually asked to cover up and face away from the gorillas.

If you have any communicable disease, you will not be allowed to go into the forest to see gorillas. This is the same reason (among other reasons) why children younger than 15 aren’t allowed to track gorillas.

Conservation

24. How many Gorillas left

According to the latest mountain gorilla census from 2019, the total number of gorillas in the wild is estimated to be just above 1000. Since this report many new births have been reported by the various authorities in charge in all the 3 countries of Rwanda, Uganda and DRC.

With a few deaths reported, we know that the numbers are still rising. This is the good news, the great result of conservation efforts by so many stakeholders.

25. Habitat destruction

The biggest problem as far as the conservation of the mountain gorilla is concerned is habitat loss. Since these gorillas cannot live in different habitats or zoos, any loss of habitat massively affects their survival.

The governments in Uganda, Rwanda and DRC have designated strict borders for the national parks where gorillas live. This is one of the factors that has supported their increasing numbers over the last few decades.

Habitat destruction also involves protecting and ensuring a healthy ecosystem of all the natural plants and animals that inhabit these parks.

Research efforts for mountain gorillas try to address all these concerns and more through, activities like community education, and monitoring of the entire ecosystem.

26. Gorilla Tourism

Gorilla tourism is one of the biggest contributing factors that enable the continued work towards the conservation of gorillas and their homes in the wild forests. This is how it happens. the money collected from gorilla permits (which you need to see the gorillas) is used to fund activities such as research and monitoring.

A percentage of the collected money is also directly reinvested in the local communities near these parks. This enhances the local livelihoods and actively involves the local community in conservation.

To make sure that tourism doesn’t negatively impact the livelihood of the mountain gorillas and the forests they live in, the number of people allowed each day is limited. Here is our article about gorilla tracking eligibility.

Conclusion

There is so much you can learn about gorillas; some will challenge what you thought you knew and some of it will completely fascinate you. Like how Silverbacks beat their chest like King Kong when they are angry.

While you could spend a whole day learning about gorillas, (which is awesome), those who see them in person say the experience lasts forever.

After more than 10 years of us conducting gorilla trekking safaris in Uganda and Rwanda, we can firmly tell you that the experience is like nothing else. Here are some of our popular gorilla safaris to give you a hint of what others have already experienced.

And, of course, feel free to reach out and start a conversation with us. We will cherish it and help however we can.

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