The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is inhabited by a population of about 459 individual mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei), known as the Bwindi population, which makes up almost half of all the mountain gorillas in the world. The rest of the worldwide mountain gorilla population is in the nearby Virunga National Park. A 2006 census of the mountain gorilla population in the park showed that its numbers had increased modestly from an estimated 300 individuals in 1997 to 320 individuals in 2002 to 340 individuals in 2006. Disease and habitat loss are the greatest threat to the gorillas. Poaching is also a threat.
Research on the Bwindi population lags behind that of the Virunga National Park population, but some preliminary research on the Bwindi gorilla population has been carried out by Craig Stanford. This research has shown that the Bwindi gorilla’s diet is markedly higher in fruit than that of the Virunga population, and that the Bwindi gorillas, even silverbacks, are more likely to climb trees to feed on foliage, fruits, and epiphytes. In some months, Bwindi gorilla diet is very similar to that of Bwindi chimpanzees. It was also found that Bwindi gorillas travel further per day than Virunga gorillas, particularly on days when feeding primarily on fruit than when they are feeding on fibrous foods. Additionally, Bwindi gorillas are much more likely to build their nests in trees, nearly always in alchornea floribunda (locally, “Echizogwa”), a small understory tree.
Mountain gorillas are an endangered species, with an estimated total population of about 650 individuals. There are no mountain gorillas in captivity. In the 1960s and 1970s, mountain gorillas were captured in order to begin a population of them in captive facilities. No baby gorillas survived in captivity, and no mountain gorillas are known of that are currently in captivity.
All About Bwindi Gorillas
Sharing over 98% of their DNA with humans, gorillas display uncanny human characteristics. Gorilla families are headed by a silverback – a mature male who select places for the group to eat and sleep. The silverback has many privileges – including the right to feed first. This previlege pays off for the rest of the family, as if the group is threatened, the silveback weighing up to 120kg (260lbs) will defend them to the death if necessary.
Generally though most people think that gorillas are scaring, they are indeed gentle and peaceful animals. These great apes are highly intelligent and have been observed using tools and communicate using a variety of vocal sounds.
Read More on Bwindi Gorillas:
- Gorilla Families in Bwindi
- Bwindi mountain gorilla research
- Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Forest
- Gorilla Tracking Rules
What You Need to Know About Mountain Gorillas
After the discovery of mountain gorillas over two decades by Europeans, it prompted the government of Belgian government to create the Albertine National Park in 1925 which is now the Virunga National Park. The population of gorillas in this park was stable until 1960 when a census was undertaken by George Schaller indicated that about 450 individuals in the range and by 1971, the population of mountain gorillas had fallen to an estimate of 250. Eco-tourism has been encouraged as a way to conserve mountain gorillas however, despite the success of Eco-tourism there are still various threats to the ongoing survival of mountain gorillas in the wild. The Rwandan conflicts for instance had several repercussions in the virunga national park.
In Bwindi Impenetrable National park which is the best place for gorilla trekking today, it’s population is however more immediately safely guarded than elsewhere. This is largely because Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is not divided by arbitrary political border. This means that the entire population can be protected within one well managed and carefully monitored national park. The habituation of mountain gorillas in Bwindi impenetrable park has also reduced their vulnerability to poachers within the area.
The benefits derived from gorilla tourism in Bwindi do extend much further for the activity. The local people have embraced tourism and are the prime protectors of the forest and its occupants. Today there are less human wildlife conflicts within Bwindi given that the local communities are on board. Local community participation now forms the foundation of conservation in Uganda’s national parks.
On a larger scene, Ugandans respect the gorillas and it is their treasure. Gorilla tourism has also formed the backbone of the development of Uganda’s tourism. Majority of the people who come to the pearl of Africa come to see the mountain gorillas. The Bwindi gorillas also attract tourists who include other visits to the different parts of the country there by generating foreign revenue and creating employment well beyond the immediate vicinity of the mountain gorilla reserves. This results into a symbiotic situation whereby a far greater number of people, nationally and internationally are very much motivated to take an active interest in the protection of the gorillas than would otherwise would be the case.
The Ecology and Taxonomy
Mountain gorillas are one of the largest primates which are widespread residents of the Equatorial African rain-forest with a global population of perhaps 100,000 individuals concentrated mainly in the Congo basin. The conventional taxonomic classification of the mountain gorillas has been very much challenged by the recent advances in the DNA testing and the fresh morphological studies suggests that the western and the Eastern Gorilla population range lies more than 1,000 kilometers a part. It should be noted however that the first study of the mountain gorillas was undertaken in the 1950s by George Schaller, whose pioneering work greatly formed the starting point for the more recent researches by Dian Fossey in the 1960s though the brutal and unsolved murder of Fossey at her research center in the of 1985 has been generally thought as one of the great work.
Discrepancy of the mountain gorillas
Mountain gorillas are distinguished from lowland counterparts by several adaptations concerning its altitude home. A female mountain gorilla reaches sexual maturity at the age of eight (8) and after which she will then often move between different troops several times. Once a female has successfully given birth to young ones, she will normally stay loyal to that male which is the silverback until he dies. The females do have a gestation period which is similar to humans and when she reaches the old age, she will have raised up to six off springs to sexual maturity.
Feeding of the endangered mountain gorillas
These great apes are primarily vegetarian and their main diet is composed of bamboo shoots being the favored diet. They are also known to eat about 58 different species of plants and several insects with ants being their popular protein supplement. Being sedentary creatures, they typically move less than 1 kilometer in a day which tracking them on a day to day basis relatively easy more so if you are an experienced guide.