The mountain gorilla or to use its species name gorilla beringei beringei is the 7th most endangered animal on the planet. This species of gorilla is only found at the confluence of three countries: Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Here, a meagre 880 mountain gorillas struggle to exist alongside man’s warring. Admittedly, the numbers are increasing, albeit slowly, but they are also marginalised by ongoing fighting in these countries, Rwanda back in 1994 and, more recently, in the DRC. Poaching is also an issue. Another census is due in 2015, and conservationists are hopeful the number of animals will exceed 900.
Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park is home to 480 mountain Gorillas made up of 19 families. Ten families are visited by tourists while the other nine are monitored for research purposes only.
The journey to visit these bewitching creatures is not for the faint hearted, but the surrounding countryside is spectacular, traversing a series of five volcanoes. It is easy to understand how the title Gorillas in the Mist came into being.
The first family I met were HIRWA made up of 19 individuals, including a set of male twins. The boss, a 27 year old silverback named Munyinya, was nothing short of regal, at once gentle and powerful.
In gorilla families, it is the silverback who entertains the children. The boss of a group is usually the oldest member but always the dominant one, he can weigh a staggering 220 kilograms. Only the silverback can touch the females in their family.
Gorillas live between 45 to 55 years. The females live longer than the males due to the amount of fighting the males endure. The animals’ diet consists of over 200 species of plants, and they can eat up to 15 percent of their bodyweight in a day.