Kleiner Berggorilla schaut in die Kamera und klettert auf einem anderen Gorilla
Dana Leidel
Written by: Dana Leidel Last updated at: February 19, 2024

Mountain Gorilla

The mountain gorilla belongs to the primate family of the great apes and is a subspecies of the eastern gorillas. With less than 1,000 animals, the population is very small. Only two populations of this extremely endangered gorilla species still live in Africa: in the national parks on the Virunga volcanoes in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the Bwindi Forest in Uganda. Reasons for the extinction are on the one hand the deforestation of rainforests. The production of charcoal from trees often represents the only livelihood of the human inhabitants. On the other hand, the gorillas do not escape civil wars: this forces them to flee. And poachers, who target the meat of bushbuck and antelope, for example, are also to blame for the extinction of the mountain gorillas. The snares laid out are often the undoing of the curious gorillas. Transmissible diseases (such as respiratory infections) originating from humans also endanger the animals.

Mountain gorillas - external characteristics

What immediately catches the eye is the long silky black fur and the elongated face. In terms of stature, mountain gorillas have a stocky build and broad chest. With a body length of 1.75 meters and a weight of 200 kilograms, they are smaller but more corpulent than the western and eastern lowland gorillas and are considered the largest apes on earth by their overall appearance. Males are on average twice as heavy as females and their female counterparts are also much smaller in size. The gray coloration of the back is a typical feature of the older males (silverbacks), as it is in the lowland gorillas. The long fur warms the gorillas in the cooler mountain areas. Unlike the Eastern lowland gorillas, to which they are most closely related, the mountain gorillas have shorter arms.

Mountain gorillas - habitat

At an altitude of up to 4,300 meters, mountain gorillas live in the rainforest. They make their home on the slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes in the border area between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in the Bwindi Rainforest National Park. Not only has the number of mountain gorillas shrunk significantly, but their habitat has also become much smaller. They now have just 770 square kilometers at their disposal - an area about the size of Hamburg.

Mountain gorillas - Way of life

With an average of up to 16 animals, the gorilla groups of the mountain gorillas are considered somewhat larger in contrast to the other gorilla species. Just as with the lowland gorillas, one male, several females and their offspring live together. If a group consists of more than one male, one of them takes the dominant role. In May 2011 the largest known group around the silverback Pablo was found with no less than 48 members.

Within a large area of 400 to 800 square kilometers, the mountain gorillas move in circles. In doing so, they cover an average distance of only 0.4 kilometers. Of all the gorilla populations, mountain gorillas are the ones that spend most of their time on the ground. They use the so-called ankle gait - locomotion on all four feet - to move forward. Since they do not have a particularly pronounced territorial behavior, the individual groups do not get in each other's way when searching for food. However, this does not happen at the same time, as the groups avoid mutual contact. Their main food is leaves and pith. Since the nutritional value of these is low, they require longer rest periods during the day. Tree bark, buds, shoots and roots as well as snails, worms and insect larvae are also occasionally on their menu. Unlike the lowland gorillas, the mountain gorillas feed less on fruits - only the primates living in the Bwindi forest eat a little more of them. Like all gorillas, they sleep in leaf nests they have built themselves.