Scientific Name : Gorilla beringei
Mountain gorillas are among the world’s most critically endangered mammals, with only around 600 surviving in two isolated populations: some 300 on the forested slopes of the Virunga volcanoes (shared by Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo) and a similar number in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest of western Uganda. These are the only suitable habitats remaining for the species and since they occur at maximum density there is no realistic possibility of numbers increasing within this range. The priority for conservationists is therefore to safeguard the Virunga and Bwindi forests in perpetuity. Gorillas live in troops led by a dominant adult male, whose massive size inspires respect and confidence among the family members. This so-called ‘silverback’ leads the family troop, deciding where to forage, rest and sleep within their home range. Unlike the closely-related chimpanzee (and us humans, for that matter) the gorilla is entirely vegetarian, favouring a few selected leafy plants such as wild celery and bamboo shoots. Over the past two decades, various mountain gorilla troops in the Virunga and Bwindi forests have been sensitively habituated to researchers, wildlife-guards and small groups of ecotourists. Watching gorillas in their natural habitat is not only one of the most enthralling wildlife experiences imaginable, it is also a way of ensuring the conservation of gorilla habitat, as local communities and national governments derive tangible economic benefits from ecotourism.