The mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) is one of two subspecies of the eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei). It is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, as the total population is estimated to comprise 1,004 individuals in two populations as of 2018. One population lives in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and the other in the Virunga Mountains in three adjacent national parks, namely Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Uganda’s dense forests are home to over half the world’s 1004 or so mountain gorillas (as of May 2018) – the rest live in the neighboring Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As they do not survive in captivity, preservation of these fragile habitats is essential for their survival.
In Uganda Mountain Gorillas are found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (MGNP). In these areas tracking takes place at 5 locations Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga, Nkuringo in BINP and Ntebeko in MGNP. All locations combined give a total of over 18 Gorilla groups, however the permit number are limited because only 8 people are allowed to visit a gorilla family per day for only one hour.
Prior booking is recommended and this can be done directly with Uganda Wildlife Authority in Kampala or with a reputable Tour agent/operator. Permits can be booked up to two years in advance.
Gorillas display uncanny human characteristics. The close-knit family groups are headed by a silverback – a mature male – who selects places for the group to eat and sleep, and has many privileges, including the right to feed first. This privilege pays off for the rest of the family, as if the group is threatened, the silverback – weighing up to 120kg (260lbs) – will defend them to the death, if necessary.
Generally though, the gorilla is a gentle species. They are considered to be highly intelligent, have been observed using tools like other great apes, and communicate using a variety of vocal sounds.
The name gorilla comes from the Greek gorillai – meaning hairy women.