Everything You Need To Know About Mountain Gorillas
Posted on May 14th 2019
The population of wild mountain gorillas is believed to be on the rise making it a true conservation success story. Despite the good news, their numbers still remain low with only 1,000 in the wild making their future fragile. This means the work WWF is doing through the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) is as important as ever. Here are five things you should know about this iconic species and why it’s so important that they continue to survive.
Mountain gorillas are elusive
You can only find mountain gorillas in two places on the planet. One of them is the Virunga Massif which spans the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC. The other is in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The former is perhaps one of the world’s most biologically diverse areas where you will find both African savannah and snow-capped mountains. This results in a wide variety of wildlife within the parks including mountain gorillas who live at altitudes of between 1,500 to 4,000 metres.
Mountain gorillas are fussy about their food
An adult male silverback weighs between 140 to 180 kilograms but feeds mainly on leaves, shoots and stems. Whilst their diet is pretty static, they eat huge quantities, with half their waking hours spent foraging. As a result of their diet, the forest found in the mountains which are lush and green are perfect for mountain gorillas. However, there are 4 million people who live within a day’s walk of Virunga and this puts pressure on the mountain gorilla’s natural habitat.
Mountain gorillas are closely related to humans
Whilst they may be double the size of humans, covered in fur and walk on all-fours, humans and gorillas are actually far more similar than one would expect. We share approximately 98 per cent of our DNA and just like humans, gorillas can also be uniquely identified. Each mountain gorilla has a unique pattern on their nose in the same way humans have unique fingerprints. Mountain gorillas also live in close proximity to dense rural populations of humans. This results in a variety of potential threats such as disease, getting caught in snares or human-wildlife conflict.
Mountain gorillas make a ton of cash
A mountain gorilla in the wild can generate as much as £2.5 million over the course of its life from tourist income alone. Thousands visit Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda every year and over the last two decades the revenue generated from tourism has increased dramatically. This has had a profound effect on the government’s attitude towards conservation. WWF’s work through IGCP includes supporting sustainable eco-tourism which keeps gorillas and their environment protected whilst also providing jobs and other benefits for the local community.