Much as many travelers have trekked gorillas, a widespread understanding of these endangered species has not been extensively known. Gorillas are the close relatives to people sharing roughly 99.8% of human genes alongside the chimpanzees, orangutans and the bonobos.
Gorillas in general are a single specie divided into Eastern gorillas and western gorillas. Further more, the eastern gorillas are split into mountain gorilla and the Eastern lowland gorillas whereas the western gorillas are divided into the western lowland gorillas and the cross-river gorillas. Each subspecies has unique characters that distinguish it from the others in terms of habitation, physical description and social behaviors among others as explained below:
Scientifically called gorilla beringei beringei, mountain gorilla is a sub specie of the Eastern gorillas. The endangered species reside in the tropical rainforest of Uganda in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park, Rwanda in the volcanoes national park and Democratic Republic of Congo in Virunga national park. Wide-reaching, there are approximately 900 mountain gorilla surviving only in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and the virunga conservation area.
As the name articulates, mountain gorillas live in mountainous regions with higher altitude of 8,000 to 13,000 feet. Mountain gorillas were discovered in 1902 but faced extinction, by poaching and habitat loss. To solve the problem Dian Fossey an American primatologist committed herself to conserve the mountain gorillas and fought against poaching in1967. This was the start of mountain gorilla safaris in Virunga conservation area and the number of the rare specie has continued to increase day by day. The stiffer fur provides warmth to mountain gorillas in areas where temperatures regularly drop below freezing.
Eastern lowland gorillas
This is another sub specie of Eastern gorillas scientifically called grauer’s gorilla. These inhabit the lowland tropical rainforest of Kahuzi Biega national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and are the largest sub specie of all gorilla species. Also, Eastern lowland gorillas have stock body, large hands and short muzzle, which distinguish them from the other gorilla species. Presently, there are approximately 5000 eastern lowland gorillas in the national park as compared to 17,000 individuals in the 1990’s. The decrease in Eastern lowland gorilla population is attributed to poaching and habitat loss alongside civil wars and un rest in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Western lowland gorillas
Also called gorilla gorilla gorilla, Western lowland gorillas is subspecies of western gorillas residing in the tropical forests of central Africa. Considering their population, these have the highest population compared to other gorilla species. There are approximately 100,000 western gorillas living. These however live in smaller families of 4-8 members contrary to the bigger families in other gorilla species.
Inhabiting the borders of South-Eastern Nigeria and western Cameroon, cross-river gorillas are a sub specie of western lowland gorillas. Worldwide, there are about 250-300 cross. Poaching and habitat loss have continued to be the great threat to cross-river gorillas. More still, loss of genetic diversity and inbreeding due to the small population of the gorilla specie as another threat.
In general, gorillas are herbivorous feeding on fruits, stems, leaves, shoots and leaves. However, each gorilla specie has its favorite foods for example western lowland gorillas prefer plants belonging to the ginger and arrowroot families, along side ground insects such as termites and ants. On the other hand, mountain gorillas consume only 38 plant species preferably celery, gallium, thistles and nettles. The strong chewing muscles and long pointed canines help in chewing food. Adult male gorillas eat approximately 38 kilograms of plants and adult females 18 kilograms of plants every day.
Concerning the social behaviors, gorillas are peaceful, gentle and non-territorial primates, which live peacefully with other animals. Just like humans, gorillas live in families each of which is led by a dominant silver back. Each gorilla is so much attached to a specific group and cannot join any other family even when different families meet and mix. Each gorilla has a specific role in the family for example silverbacks plan and lead the entire family, adult females nurse the young ones and juveniles entertain the family keeping it live as they continuously play and jump all over.
While trekking, each gorilla family is allocated to 8 people maximum who interact with them for an hour.
Regarding the life span of gorillas, the endangered species live for 35-40 years. Once a gorilla has aged, he/she suffers from arthritis, which mostly harm their hands and feet. Similarly, gorillas in the old stage loose teeth at this stage and are always abandoned by their family members hence pulling out of the family.
Conclusively therefore, a stay with the gorillas is an extra-ordinary experience that every traveler should take part in. gorilla trekking is a lifetime experience for every traveler.