The gorilla is rated as the largest among the ape species. The gorillas (genus Gorilla) are humans’ closest cousins; this was proved by the zoologist’s study, which also relates to human evolution that dates back about 7 million years. In this closet, chimpanzees and bonobos also shared the talk. Here, the gorillas uphold about 98% of human genetic material (DNA).
The word “gorilla” originates from the Greek word gorilla, meaning ‘a lady with a hairy body.” Gorillas are hairy mammals, the largest among other primates. The species is considered to be the most intelligent among all mammals in the wild. The gorilla is a stocky mammal with a broad chest and shoulders; it has large human-like hands and tiny eyes set into hairless faces.
Gorilla sub-species (gorilla distribution)
Gorillas are subdivided into two major species, which are later also subdivided. The two sets are the eastern gorillas and the western gorillas. The two are further splintered into four to five sub-species. The western gorillas are splintered into two subspecies: the western lowland gorillas and the Cross River gorillas, which both reside in the equatorial ether of western Africa. The eastern gorillas are also splintered into two species: the eastern lowland gorillas and the mountain gorillas.
It’s thought that there are about 316,000 western gorillas in the wild and about 5,000 eastern gorillas. The International Union for Nature Conservation (IUNC) classifies both subspecies as critically endangered, except mountain gorillas, which are classified as endangered. The mountain gorillas have registered a tremendous increase in number, from about 300 by the 1980s to 1063 by 2019.
Western gorillas (gorilla gorillas)
The western gorilla subspecies resides in west-central Africa. The two subspecies of western gorillas are located in different West African equatorial forests. The subspecies are the western lowland gorillas (G. gorilla gorilla); they reside in the tropical rainforests of Cameroon, extending to the Cong River. And the other subspecies is the Cross River gorilla (G. gorilla diehli), which lives in the small rainforest zone along the Cross River that separates Nigeria from Cameroon.
The eastern gorilla (G. beringei)
The eastern gorilla is a bit larger than the western gorilla. This species is well distributed into two subspecies, i.e., the eastern lowland gorillas (G. beringei graueri), which live in the lowland rainforests of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The other subspecies is the mountain gorilla (G. beringei beringei); they reside in the volcanic montane rainforests and bamboo highlands of Virunga Conservation Area (shared across Uganda, Rwanda, and DR Congo) and Bwindi Impenetrable Forests in Uganda.
The Eastern Lowland Gorilla (G. beringei grauer)
The eastern lowland gorillas live in dense rainforests and lowland swamps at an elevation as low as sea level. As well, the mountain gorillas reside in the montane clouds of the Albertine Rift, which range to an altitude of 2,200 to 4,300m above sea level.
Before, the gorilla was one species, and the rest splintered to form other species. The separation came about due to their adaptability to their different environments. Lowland gorillas are distinguished from other gorillas by their stocky bodies, large hands, and short muzzles. Despite their size, lowland gorillas survive primarily on fruit and other herbaceous materials, which is also the case with gorillas.
The eastern lowland gorillas are a bit scarce compared to their mountain counterparts. In the lowland terrain and swampy solid jungles, it became difficult for zoologists to establish the accurate number of eastern lowland gorillas sustained in the forests of Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasha) and some other destinations have established a perfect tourist summit with the lowland gorillas. Kahuzi Beige National Park accommodates the highest population of eastern lowland gorillas in the world. The park now has three habituated families of eastern lowland gorillas to trek with.
The mountain gorillas (G. beringei beringei)
Mountain gorillas (gorialla beringei), as the name suggests, dwell on the mountainous and bamboo-rolling slopes of the great Albertine Rift. Mountain gorillas are endangered species listed on the Red List of Endangered Species by IUNC and are endemic to the montane regions of the Albertine Rift (Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo). The mountain gorilla distribution broadens to four protected areas: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park; Mgahinga National Park, southwestern Uganda; Virunga National Park, eastern DR Congo; and Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.
Mountain gorilla threats have steadily decreased in response to conservation efforts. Conservation efforts have established gorilla conservation as one of the most successful in the world. This is witnessed by the tremendous increase of the apes in the wild from the verge of extinction in the 1980s, from 300 gorillas to about 1063 gorillas counted in the wild by 2019.
Gorilla daily lifestyle
Like humans, gorillas live in groups called troops; each troop is usually constructed of a head or leader, which is always the dominant adult male (silverback), adult males (blackback), various adult females, juveniles, and infants. The group can have multiple males, and sometimes it may have more than one silverback.
Both female and male gorillas can dissolve from their natal troops, but females disperse more than males. Mature males tend to separate from their natural families and form their own families. This is possible when a male gorilla decides to grab a female from another group or finds wild gorillas and starts a new family. The adult male gorillas are determined to defend their families from any attack or threat, even to the point of death.
The silverback is always at the center of all decisions concerning the troop. The troop can consist of up to 30 gorillas; it determines the movement of the family and the feeding partners. The gorillas construct new nests daily for daytime and nighttime rest. The nests are a mixture of branches and leaves, reaching a size of 2 to 5 feet in diameter. The infants nest beside their mothers, but they construct nests after three years of age. Eventually, every early morning, gorillas walk away from the point they nested for the night, then migrate about 3km away as they feed, and they make new nests where the next night finds them.
Gorilla trekking being the master of all African adventures, before they are made ready for trekking, they first undergo habituation, which lasts for not more than 2 years. Gorilla habituation is the process aimed at making the gorillas used to human presence. This is associated with gorillas being very aggressive and cautious towards any threat. Habituation is done by primatologists and researchers; it starts as a follow-up activity for a newly seen gorilla group or wild gorillas discovered. It proceeds from where they have been sited until the gorillas are ready for trekking.
The highlight of the rest of the adventures done in Africa Gorilla trekking is available to fully habituated families. Trekking means bumping into the untamed rolling terrain of montane rainforests and bamboos. Then go on a search for the gorillas under the guidance of an armed and experienced guide. The trek starts as early as 8 a.m.; it takes about 30 minutes to about 5 hours to find your assigned gorilla family.
The gorilla trekking of both mountain gorillas and lowland gorillas is done in the central and eastern African forests along the Albertine Rift. For the experience of the famous mountain gorilla trekking, it is done at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. For the case of lowland gorilla trekking, witness Kahuzi Biegi National Park in the DR Congo.
Uganda offers the highest opportunities for trekking gorillas, and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park is set for luxury gorilla trekking experiences. Then DR Congo suggests the cheapest trekking moments.
The cost of gorilla permits
Before bumping into the gorilla forests for trekking, you should consider having a trekking permit. The cost of a permit varies depending on which country you want to trek with gorillas. Trekking in Rwanda is more expensive than any other destination; here, a permit costs $1,500. For trekking in Uganda, a permit costs $700 in either park, and for trekking in the DR Congo, mountain gorilla permits cost $400. And for the eastern lowland trekking at Kahuzi Biega National Park, a permit costs $250.