The Mountain Gorilla(Gorilla beringei beringei) is the largest of all the gorillas and is the most endangered. The world’s remaining 820 mountain gorillas live in three different countries:Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda. Although this makes their range seem large, the mountain gorillas actually inhabit a small geographic area where the borders of these three countries meet. Over half of the world’s mountain gorillas can be found a midst the Virunga chain of volcanoes and the remaining populations live in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest .
Unlike the lowland gorillas, The Mountain Gorilla has long hair, which helps them handle the extreme temperatures found at a high altitude. Mountain gorillas live in large family units led by a single dominant adult male, known as the “Silver-back” a name derived from the grey hair that develops on male’s back as it reaches adulthood and it is responsible for protecting the family from predators or other threats, including solitary Silver-backs intending on claiming females as their own.Though some families contain more than one silver-back,only one is dominant silver-back that is responsible for mating with the adult females of the group and also takes on the role of mediator when disputes arise in the family and the sub-adult males of the family known as “Black-backs”.
Adult females are half the size of the males and it is their responsibility to initiate mating with the dominant male, as well as care for the infants.
Despite all the lore about the ferocity of the Mountain Gorilla, they are very peaceful creatures that spend most of their day foraging for food, playing, and grooming.Aside from mock fighting amongst juveniles, displays of aggression are reserved for challenges to the Silverware dominance or direct threats to the family’s well being.
The mountain gorilla’s fierceness has been seen protecting its young from illegal animal traffickers intent on capturing baby gorillas.
Tourism is the major way of conserving the endangered beast, unfortunately, tourism brings along one of the gravest threats— disease since they are exposed to the same diseases as humans though they have lower resistance compared to humans. Outbreaks such as Ebola or virulent strains of influenza could wipe out the remaining Mountain Gorilla populations beyond the point of return, due to this vulnerability it is imperative that tourists only visit gorillas when healthy and keep a minimum distance of 7 meters.
Understanding the nature of mountain gorillas, and the threats they face, is the first step in assuring their preservation.