Mountain gorillas are the most sought after wild animals in the eco-tourism world. Many tourists around the world enjoy trekking and researching about these amazing creatures due to their close similarities with mankind. The gorillas have 97.7% DNA similarity to that of human beings. Gorillas and humans have the same circulatory, respiratory, immune and digestion systems. Mountain gorillas are a subspecies of gorillas that belong to the eastern gorillas. There are two species of gorillas namely the eastern gorillas and the western gorillas where the eastern gorillas comprise of two subspecies of the mountain gorillas and the eastern lowland/Grauer’s gorillas and the western gorillas also have two subspecies of western lowland gorillas and the cross river gorillas. All the gorillas’ subspecies are named in accordance to the nature of their locations. The mountain gorillas live in cool, tropical forested ranges of the east central Africa region and that were they derive their name. These have got large skulls, wide face and lanky nostrils and much more fur/hair than the eastern lowland gorillas. They weigh about 160kgs a male adult on average and a female one 120kgs.
The mountain gorillas are endangered species of animals that are only found in the tropical rainforests of Uganda, Rwanda and Dr. Congo. The mountain gorillas belong to the ape family thus being one of the most intelligent animals to ever grace planet earth. These live in large numbers of about 10-40 individuals called a gorilla family or whoop comprising of the silverback, female adult gorillas(10-40 years), the adolescent gorillas (6-10 years) and the infant gorillas(1-5 years old). The silver back the alpha male is the head of the family. The silver back is polygamous which has 3-4 of its better half connected to it. Everything in the family like food gathering, home location and building, disputes solving and protection rotates around this gigantic dominate male. The mountain gorillas do not do much during the day as they spend most of their time feeding and resting. Mountain gorillas are herbivorous animals that feed on tree shoot, vines, fruits, leaves and at times small invertebrates and in a day an adult gorilla feed on about 120 kgs of food to fill up their heavy bodies. The mountain gorillas are nomadic animals that keep moving from one place to another looking for food and shelter. They never settle in a place for a day.
Their population is said to be around 1000 individuals in the wild and Uganda has almost a half of the population in its forest of Bwindi and Mgahinga. The Bwindi impenetrable forest has about 420 individuals of gorillas and Mgahinga has about 40 individuals. These two forests were gazzatted for mountain gorilla conservation and preservation and hence being called Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga Gorilla Park. Both of these gorilla habitats are located in the southwest of the country in the kigezi highland region about 512km away from Kampala the capital of Uganda.
The mountain gorillas are a source of attraction to very many tourists who come to Uganda to interact with them. The two amazing parks of Bwindi and Mgahinga receive thousands of visitors through the year who come to watch the mountain gorillas in the wild. Some gorilla families have been habituated for the visitors to trek them. Habituation is the process of making the gorillas get accustomed or familiar with people so that we they come near them they do not get irritated and insecure. There are 15 gorilla habituated families in Uganda, 14 families coming from Bwindi impenetrable national park and one family coming from Mgahinga national park. These include;
In Bwindi impenetrable national park
- Buitukura, Oruzogo Kyaguriro and the newly habuated one Bikyingi – three groups in the Ruhija area
- Mishaya, Nshongi, Kahungye, Busingye and Bweza – five gorilla-groups inthe Rushaga area
- Nkuringo family and recently dispensed group of Bushaho – two groups in the Nkuringo area
- Rushegura, Mubare and Habiyanja – three groups in the Buhoma area
Mgahinga national park has the Nyakagezi family. This family is very interesting and peaceful and most people who have tracked this family say that it is the most habituated gorilla family in Uganda. They deeply interact with the gorilla trackers.