About 700 of the remaining gorilla population on earth are only found in two places; Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda and in the Virunga Volcanic Mountains. Of these, 365 of them are located in the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. These Mountain species have longer and darker hair as compared to all other species. This allows them to leave in both cold and hot areas. A male is called a silverback due to the red hair which develops at its back due to age. An adult silverback can weigh up to 250 kg while a female adult weighs half the weight of the male. However, new born weighs about 1.8 kg and feeds on its mother’s milk. In addition, it also rides on its mothers back for the first few months.
Gorillas are vegetarians and feed mostly on leaves, flowers, stems, roots, fruits, barks and insects. The Rwandan mountain species are found in the montane forest of the Virunga Volcanoes. They are in the three main dormant volcanoes of Visoke, Mikeno and Karisimbi. These slopes are covered with dense vegetation and thick forest which provides adequate food for the endangered animals. They live in stable family groups where the silverback is the head of the family. In the case where a female mother dies, the silverback is the one who takes care of young ones allowing them to share his nest at night. These groups relocate to different places within the forest in search of food.
There is a traditional naming ceremony for the new born gorillas held each year in Rwanda. It is during this ceremony that a fundraising is held to help in the protection of these animals. The Rwandan species were threatened during the civil war of between 1992 and 1994. Poachers did not spare this animals and people also took refuge in the forest destroying it for farming and timber. This decreased the animals’ food forcing them to move to Virunga Volcano Region. In addition, since the primates have not developed immunity to resist human diseases, a number of them also died due to human contamination.
In order to protect these animals from human contamination, visitors are requested to stay at least seven meters away from them. In addition, sick people are not allowed into their habitat as this could result in more deaths. The time allowed to view these mammals is one hour and only eight visitors are allowed in each group. Other preventive measures include no spitting, no eating or drinking in their habitats. You should also not make loud noises so as to avoid scaring them. A final warning is that you should avoid looking directly into the gorilla eyes, or even beating your chest to avoid being harmed by the silverback.
Jackline Mwathe Is A Tour Operator And Has Been Organizing And Reporting On Kenya Vacation, Travel And Tours For Years. For more information on African Tourism, visit her site at RWANDA MOUNTAIN GORILLAS