The Endangered Mountain Gorillas
There only about 880 mountain gorillas remaining that are critically endangered. Mountain gorillas are only found in two small populations, the Virunga volcanoes of Rwanda, Uganda, and the democratic republic of Congo and here in the Bwindi impenetrable national park of Uganda only. Bwindi has approximately 300 gorillas and the remaining are found in the Virunga volcanoes. The gorillas population and size changes are monitored by conducting a census of the whole park every 5 years or so. To do so the Uganda wildlife authority intensively searches throughout the park for signs of the gorillas and then estimate the group size and composition based based on the number of nests per group. In 2006 they also used genetic analysis of gorilla faces to confirm the identity of groups and individuals.
Gorillas diet and Ranging.
Gorillas are vegetarians in nature. Their diet consists of leaves, stems, and fruits from the wide variety of vegetation found in the rain forest. Its very suprising to learn that gorillas don’t eat meat at all with an occasional of termites and ants. You probably imagine how these great apes, Big and huge they spending 5-6hrs traveling a distance of about 1km per day in search for salad or greed vegetables, that’s how they get enough to eat. Gorilla’s stomachs are too big not because they are fat but because they are digesting all the salads and vegetation.
The diet of Gorillas varies quiet alot depending on what is available. For example, some plants that are quite common in the low altitudes in buhoma are rare or completly absent in the high altitude such as ruhujja. Foods high in proteins and carbohydrates are commonly selected by these great apes. The gorillas enjoy fruits and will not hesitate to move many kilometres in search for fruit. Fruit are more common in low land areas of the mountains. Gorillas in bwindi have access to fruit however the gorillas in virunga volcanoes consume almost no fruit.
Gorillas may also move far if they encountered another group of gorillas and the silverback may be trying to move its group far away from the other group. They occupy a home range of about 10-30 sq.km and the home range of neighbouring groups may overlap with one another.
Family life of the Gorillas.
An Average group of gorillas contains about 10 members. The dominant silverback, several adult females and immature offsprings of various ages. However a group size acryy vary from 2-30 or more members. The groups can contain more than 2 silverbacks. In multimale groups, the silverbacks are usually related as brothers, half brothers or father and son. Usually when gorillas reach maturity, they typically but not often leave the group when 6-10 years old. The males follow one or two strategies to become the leader of the group and attempt a takeover or emigrate to become a solitary male and eventually form a new group. All males become siverbacks at 14years of age but not all do. Females have their offspring at 10years, the gestation is 8 ½ months. About 1 in 3 babies born do not survive past age 3 and gorillas have a life span of 40 years. Silverbacks maybe dominant for 10 or more years.
The Uganda wildlife authority and several conservation organizations work intensively and harmoniously to protect the extinction the the great apes through a number of prolonged approach. The park law enforcement ranger continuously patrol the park to reduce illegal activities, catch poachers and cut snares. They also continuously monitor the gorillas day after day.
The permit fees through eco-tourism paid by the tourists generate revenue to protect Bwindi forest, additional employment created for the local people working as porters, artistans, restaurant workers. More directly or indirectly employed. This has channeled the minds of many poachers to more productive activities. Through community development projects, have helped improve the livelihood of the local people through agricultural practices and development of small businesses. Assistance in the construction of schools, hospitals, roads.
Research and monitoring by understanding the gorillas ecological and behavioral patterns. The Uganda wildlife authority also makes sure it keeps updated how the gorilla population and their habitat are changing over time. Through the veterinary medicine, and public health, Uganda wildlife authority vegetarians have are always on standby to remove snares or treat gorillas for respiratory illness. They as well monitor gorilla health. This public health improvement benefits both the locals and the gorillas.
Why can we see mountain gorillas if they are so wild.
Mountain Gorillas are naturally afraid of humans and will automatically flee or aggressively charge and grunt if people get so close. The groups and families that are visited by people have undergone habituation.. Habituation is a process where through daily peaceful contact with humans, these families have slowly lost their fear of humans and have and have continuously learnt how to view them as natural beings in their environment. Habituating a gorilla family takes about 2 years. The guidelines established for tourists have been developed in respect of the special relationship that exists through habituation
There are so few mountain gorillas remaining for several reasons. First the size of their inhabitant is rather smaller than of to date due to encroachment. The Bwindi forest is only 330sq.kms and the Virunga volcanoes are 450sq.kms. These two islands are surrounded by the most densely populated rural areas of the world. (200-400people per sq.km) which rural people make their living through subsistence farming which makes this as a main threat, poaching and disease transmission.
Although people around the Bwindi and the Virunga do not eat primates as bushmeat, however poachers do set snares to capture forest antelopes gorillas get caught in there. In the recent years, poaching for the pet trade has been on the increase.
Diseases either respiratory or parasitic,may be transmitted from humans to the gorillas. Being in close range with the gorillas greatly increases the risk of disease transmission. The guidelines for the tourists are designed to protect both the gorillas and you from getting sick.
Habituated mountain gorillas are very social primates, they actively coordinate on the daily activities.On a n average day, consists of alternating between several hours feeding and moving through the forest and as well resting for a few hours. Usually interactions among individuals are very peacefull but usually may conflict out of feeding spots with individuals giving aggressive ‘cough grunt’ vocalizations, screaming, or sometimes fighting. The silverbacks are the dominant on all the group while dominance hierarchies also exist among adult females. And among silverbacks in multimale groups. Males may compete intensively for access to females both within multi male groups as well in between groups. Intergroup encounters occur about oce or twice a month and this is the only time for the females to transfer through social units and hence for males to outcompete their opponents and appear the most impressive to attract females. Friendly interactions of gorillas consist of of resting together and grooming. Infants have an endless energy of playing