Gorillas in general are believed to have evolved from monkeys and other apes in Arabia and Africa about 9 million years. After a period of time (About 2 million years ago), Eastern gorillas separated from the western gorillas in west and central Africa. The eastern gorillas further split into what we now know as mountain gorillas and eastern lowland gorillas 400,000 years ago.
The biggest threats to this once critically endangered great ape's survival come from political instability, human encroachment, and forest degradation. Only about 1,000 of these great apes remain in the world, according to the most recent census.
The world’s smallest population of mountain gorillas—a subspecies of the eastern gorilla—is split in two. A bit more than half live in the Virunga Mountains, a range of extinct volcanoes that border the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. The remainder can be found in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.
As their name implies, mountain gorillas live in forests high in the mountains, at elevations of 8,000 to 13,000 feet. They have thicker fur, and more of it, compared to other great apes. The fur helps them to survive in a habitat where temperatures often drop below freezing. But as humans have moved more and more into the gorillas’ territory, the gorillas have been pushed farther up into the mountains for longer periods, forcing them to endure dangerous and sometimes deadly conditions.
Mountain gorillas generally live in groups of several females with their young and usually one dominant adult male – known as a ‘silverback’ because of the patch of silver hair on his back and hips.
The main threat to gorillas is people and the associated increasing pressure on the gorilla's habitat.
Gorillas that come into contact with humans can be vulnerable to human diseases, which gorillas experience in more severe forms. Mountain gorillas can even die from the common cold.
Not only are mountain gorillas threatened by loss of habitat due to human encroachment, they have also become victims of human violence. As civil war rages in Africa, efforts to conserve mountain gorilla populations have been curtailed. Mountain gorillas have also been killed or captured by poachers. Their body parts are sold to collectors, and baby gorillas are sold illegally as pets, research subjects, or private zoo animals.
People have been pushing into the mountain gorilla’s forests in central Africa for decades – now there are only about 1000 of these splendid beasts in the world.
Mountain gorillas are as shy as they are strong. But when threatened, they can be aggressive. They beat their chests and let out angry grunts and roars. Group leaders will charge at the threat. Mothers will fight to the death to protect their young.
Fully-grown male mountain gorillas can weigh up to 180 kg (400 lb). Females weigh half that at about 90 kg ( 200 lb). Aside from the silver stripe on their backs, male mountain gorillas are distinguished from females because they have a crest of fur on their heads. Both genders have similar thick black hair covering their body. Their thick hair keeps them warm in cold mountain temperatures.
The mountain gorilla, a large, strong ape inhabiting Africa’s volcanic slopes, has few natural predators. Yet due to detrimental human activity, such as poaching, civil war, and habitat destruction, the mountain gorilla, a subspecies of the eastern gorilla, has become the most endangered type of gorilla.
Despite the threats from humans, these animals are very friendly.
What do you think needs to be done today to ensure the survival of this extraordinarily friendly animal species, resembling the most noble people in character?