With a population believed to be on the rise, the mountain gorilla is a conservation success story. However, with numbers still only around the 1,000 mark, their future is extremely fragile and the work we’re doing through the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) remains as critical as ever.
Scroll down to learn more about the mountain gorilla, and how you can help with our latest virtual challenge, Climb For Your World.
1. They're elusive
Mountain gorillas are found in only two places on our planet, these are the Virunga Massif, an area that spans the borders of three countries; Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.
The Virunga-Bwindi area is one of the most biologically diverse parts of the plant, where ice-capped mountains meet African savannah. Because of this, there is a huge variety of wildlife within the parks, which include the mountain gorillas. They live in the high altitude montane and bamboo forests at 1,500-4,000 metre elevations.
2. They're fussy eaters
With a fully-grown male silverback weighing on average 140-180kg, you might be surprised to learn that they feed mainly on leaves, shoots and stems. However, what they lack in variety, they make up for in quantity. These huge mammals spend over half their time foraging!
Due to their diet, the lush, green forests found in the mountains are perfect for these amazing apes. But, with approximately 4 million people living within one day's walk of Virunga National Park, habitat degradation for charcoal production and agriculture development, for example, is putting pressure on the natural resources found in the mountain gorilla's natural habitats.
3. They’re our close relatives
They may be double our size, covered in fur, and walk on all-fours, but humans and gorillas are more similar than you think! Did you know, we share around 98% of our DNA with these majestic beasts?
Just like humans, mountain gorillas also have a unique identifier. Whereas we have fingerprints, gorillas each have a distinct pattern on their nose! As well as our biological similarities, we have geographical similarities too. The landscape where you find mountain gorillas is also home to some of the world’s highest densities of rural human populations. The proximity of humans brings a whole host of potential threats to the gorilla’s well-being, including the spread of disease, getting caught in snares or traps and human-wildlife conflict.
4. They’re money makers
They might be unaware of it, but a habituated mountain gorilla can indirectly generate around £2.5 million during its lifetime from tourist income!
With thousands of people visiting the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda every year, tourism income in this area has increased dramatically over the past 20 years. This has helped transform government attitudes towards conservation. Our work through IGCP includes supporting sustainable eco-tourism initiatives to help protect the gorillas and their environment, and provide jobs and benefits for the local community.
5. They're gentle giants
Mountain gorillas are a lot calmer than their sensationalist famous counterpart, King Kong. To respect their natural behaviour and ensure that gorilla tourism is responsibly managed, each habituated gorilla family is visited by just one group of tourists per day and that visit is strictly limited to one hour!
With our latest virtual challenge, Climb For Your World, we’re giving you the opportunity to climb Mount Sabyino, a peak in the Virunga mountains and see what it’s like to track mountain gorillas for yourself! To take part, all you need is a smartphone with the Strava app, and a nearby hill or mountain for you to ascend. Along the way, you’ll unlock exclusive content, where you’ll be able to see the mountain gorillas for yourself.