Mountain Gorillas

Mountain gorillas are subspecies of eastern gorillas. They have a scientific name of the mountain gorilla is the gorilla beringei beringei.

These have got large skulls, wide face and lanky nostrils and much more fur/hair than the eastern lowland gorillas.

These gorillas are only found in the volcanic areas of Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC that are located in the same region at the Virunga Massif and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. They normally live in the mountainous part of the region and it is where they derive their name from the mountain gorillas.

Unfortunately also this subspecies is critically endangered as it has a population of around 1000 gorillas. However, these mountain gorillas are the only subspecies of gorilla that has increased over the years thanks to the government of Uganda and Rwanda and also the international bodies with interests of conserving the gorillas.

Where are the Mountain Gorillas?

There are two populations. One is found in the Virunga volcanic mountains of Central Africa, within three National Parks: Mgahinga, in south-west Uganda; Volcanoes, in north-west Rwanda; and Virunga in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN. The other is found in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Some primatologists consider the Bwindi population in Uganda may be a separate subspecies, though no description has been finalized. As of September 2016, the estimated number of mountain gorillas remaining is about 880.

The mountain gorilla is diurnal, most active between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Many of these hours are spent eating, as large quantities of food are needed to sustain its massive bulk. It forages in early morning, rests during the late morning and around midday, and in the afternoon it forages again before resting at night. Each gorilla builds a nest from surrounding vegetation to sleep in, constructing a new one every evening. Only infants sleep in the same nest as their mothers. They leave their sleeping sites when the sun rises at around 6 am, except when it is cold and overcast; then they often stay longer in their nests.

Behavior of gorillas

The mountain gorilla is highly social, and lives in relatively stable, cohesive groups held together by long-term bonds between adult males and females. Relationships among females are relatively weak. These groups are nonterritorial; the silverback generally defends his group rather than his territory. In the Virunga mountain gorillas, the average length of tenure for a dominant silverback is 4.7 years.

The dominant silverback generally determines the movements of the group, leading it to appropriate feeding sites throughout the year. He also mediates conflicts within the group and protects it from external threats. When the group is attacked by humans, leopards, or other gorillas, the silverback will protect them even at the cost of his own life. He is the center of attention during rest sessions, and young animals frequently stay close to him and include him in their games. If a mother dies or leaves the group, the silverback is usually the one who looks after her abandoned offspring, even allowing them to sleep in his nest. Experienced silverbacks are capable of removing poachers’ snares from the hands or feet of their group members.


Although strong and powerful, the mountain gorillas are generally gentle and very shy. Severe aggression is rare in stable groups, but when two mountain gorilla groups meet, the two silverbacks can sometimes engage in a fight to the death, using their canines to cause deep, gaping injuries. For this reason, conflicts are most often resolved by displays and other threat behaviors that are intended to intimidate without becoming physical. The ritualized charge display is unique to gorillas. The entire sequence has nine steps:

  • progressively quickening hooting,
  • symbolic feeding,
  • Rising bipedally,
  • throwing vegetation,
  • chest-beating with cupped hands,
  • one leg kick,
  • sideways running four-legged,
  • slapping and tearing vegetation, and
  • thumping the ground with palms

Where do mountain gorillas live?

The world’s remaining mountain gorillas live in three countries spanning four National Parks in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Volcanoes National Park, and Virunga National Park.

Set off on a once in a lifetime gorilla safari into the lush hills of Uganda and Rwanda to encounter chimpanzees tracking and mountain gorillas in the wild. Observe chimpanzees with a primatologist, and track gorillas in the forests of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Volcanoes National Park.