Since the discovery of the mountain gorilla subspecies in 1902, many around the world have marveled over this incredible species of great ape. This article delves deep into the mountain gorilla, including where they are in the wild, the conservation efforts to protect them, and how you can see them in real life via responsible tourism.
The mountain gorilla is one of the two subspecies of the eastern gorilla; with two populations across the Virunga volcanic mountains of Central Africa (within three National Parks) and in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. They live in forests high up in the mountains where their thick fur (more than other great apes) helps them survive when temperatures drop below zero.
5 facts about mountain gorillas
- They’re very social animals and live together in groups
- They move around their habitat in ‘troops’ and each troop can contain up to 30 gorillas!
- They’re mostly herbivores so only eat plants
- An adult gorilla can eat up to 30kg of food each day…
- These creatures actually share 98% of their DNA with human beings!
As of 2018, mountain gorillas have been listed as endangered by the IUCN. However, in recent years, massive conservation efforts to protect this subspecies has meant that mountain gorillas have increased in numbers despite ongoing civil conflict, an increase in human population, and poaching. For example, studies have shown that the population of mountain gorillas in Virunga Massif have grown to 604 individuals, up from 480 individuals in 2010. This then puts the total population of wild gorillas to over 1,000!
One big conservation project protecting these animals is The International Gorilla Conservation Programme. This coalition of conservation organizations around the world work with national and local partners to guarantee the long-term survival of these magnificent creatures.
How you can see mountain gorillas in the wild
Due to these conservation efforts, it’s important that if you do want to see these animals in the wild, you do so by going on specialist treks that specialize in responsible tourism. When looking for hiking trips to see mountain gorillas in the wild make sure to do your research beforehand.
Responsible tourism looks like:
- Camping to reduce environmental impact
- Staying in campsites that are locally staffed
- Using local produce wherever possible to ensure you are directly benefitting the local communities
- Managing waste and litter and making sure to remove all waste from the campsite
- Looking for companies that help their local community by providing income and positive cultural exchanges
Mountain gorillas are some of the most magnificent creatures that live in the wild, so it’s no surprise that many want to visit and see these apes in real life. If you do want to encounter mountain gorillas on your travels, make sure to use a company that specializes in responsible tourism and puts conservation efforts for these animals at the forefront of their work.