Rwanda is one of the only three countries that host the mountain gorillas. Popularized to international scene by the conservation efforts of Dian Fossey in the 1960s and 70s, Rwanda’s gorillas have been featured in numerous films and documentaries. Notable celebrities, nobles and high profile personalities have in the recent years visited the mountain gorillas.
Mountain gorillas are the star attraction of Rwanda. Over 380 mountain gorillas live in the Volcanoes National Park and gorilla trekking is the ultimate wildlife experience that attracts most travelers to Rwanda.
A large number of the mountain gorillas in Rwanda were saved and became popular because of an American zoologist Dian Fossey who had been doing research on the rare species in form the Congo forest. After fleeing Congo because of insecurity and establishing her research center in Rwanda, she was murdered but her research center still remained and has done a great conservation job of the mountain gorillas.
At least 80 gorilla permits are sold to tourist who flock the area eager to track the rare apes.
Gorillas are the largest living primates. Most of the Virunga gorillas live in the central area of The Volcanoes National Park and in the triangles area formed by Mt. Visoke, Mt.Karisimbi, and Mt. Mikeno. Among the habituated groups for tourism, a few have their home range to the slopes of Mt. Sabyinyo and Mt. Gahinga.
The last Gorilla Census put the population of the mountain gorillas at about 1050 individuals. Though there were fears that the population of the mountain gorillas was decreasing at a fast rate in the 1980s, there is a promising recovery in the growth of the population of the mountain gorillas. The population is slowly increasing due to concerted efforts taken by the governments of countries where mountain gorillas live, local communities and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
The Rwandan gorillas belong the Mountain Gorilla Subspecies (scientifically known as Gorilla beringei beringei). The mountain gorilla is one of the two subspecies of the Eastern Gorilla that are native to the African continent.
There are two separate populations of the mountain gorillas.
- One is found in the Virunga Mountains of Central Africa, within three National Parks: Mgahinga National Park in south-west Uganda; Volcanoes National Park in north-west Rwanda; and Virunga National Park in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
- The other population lives in the separate location of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in south western Uganda. As of Spring 2023, the estimated total number of Mountain Gorillas worldwide is around 1068 individuals.
The Mountain Gorilla is diurnal, most active between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Many of these hours are spent eating, as large quantities of food are needed to sustain its massive bulk. It forages in early morning, rests during the late morning and around midday, and in the afternoon it forages again before resting at night. Each gorilla builds a nest from surrounding vegetation to sleep in, constructing a new one every evening. Only infants sleep in the same nest as their mothers. They leave their sleeping sites when the sun rises at around 6 am, except when it is cold and overcast; then they often stay longer in their nests.
There are ten families living in the Volcanoes National Park that are fully habituated and available for visits by the public (whilst others are habituated for scientific research purposes only) . Each family consists of at least one Silverback (but sometimes as many and four), along with several females and a group of youngsters.
- Susa — The largest group with 38 gorillas. They’re hardest to trek as they tend to range high into the mountains. They have rare 5 year old twins named Byishimo and Impano.
- Sabinyo— 17 members Sabyinyo is an easily accessible group led by the powerful silverback Guhonda.
- Amahoro — 19 gorillas, led by teh calm and easy going Ubumwe. To reach Amahoro it’s usually a fairly steep climb but it is well worth it!
- Agashya — (formerly known as Group 13) today it has 22 members – a very positive sign for conservation.
- Kwitonda— 23 members led by Akarevuro, originally habituated in DRC so they tend to range quite far making it a moderately difficult trek.
- Umubano —a family of 13, who broke off from Amahoro with leader, Charles,
- Hirwa —this group has 18 members and only fairly recently formed from former Group 13 and Sabyinyo family members. They are led by Munyinya.
Are Gorillas Endangered?
Gorillas and humans have many related facts and it’s believed that gorillas have 98.67% human resembleness especially the upbringing of children by mother gorillas, family habit of living together, same diseases like humans, communication sounds and many more. However, today Gorillas are still one of most endangered animal species in the world facing many threats and challenges as they struggle to survive in the wild. Gorillas are only found in five national parks in the Eastern Africa and Central Africa. They are indeed found in ten countries of Africa; Rwanda, Uganda, Congo (Brazaville), Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo. The available gorillas for both research and tourism are living today due to the strong conservation effort by different governments and many wildlife conservation organizations across the world. International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP), the Gorilla Organization, Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund (MGCF), Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, Wildlife Conservation Society, Gorilla Doctors, Wildlife Alliance, International Fund for Animal Welfare, World Society for the Protection of Animals, Africa Wildlife Foundation and many more are one of the top wildlife conservation organizations that fight every day to save endangered animal species including mountain gorillas.
Would like to thank every wildlife conservation organizations, local communities that surround different gorilla parks and the governments that create a peaceful environment for wildlife and travel because the growing gorilla tourism in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo is a result of their struggle. Gorillas have plenty of food in there protected areas and no case has been registered of gorillas crossing from one protected area to the other for the past two years. Besides, there is a big change in gorilla population since mother gorillas add new members to different gorilla families more often. Recent celebrations have been registered in Bwindi impenetrable forest in Uganda and Volcanoes National park in Rwanda. No wonder Rwanda names several baby gorillas every year on the Kwita Izina gorilla conservation event every year.
Many international and foreign visitors visit the country to witness the successful results of gorilla conservation. In 2016, the celebration took place early September on 2nd 2016 and the set of twins baby gorillas where also named a thing which made many guests smile. Gorillas are the largest members of the primate family and are very attractive and amazing compared to all other wildlife species. Africa became very lucky and proud when they chose it as a permanent resident and the reason for many gorilla tours every year. The endangered gorillas don’t only front their wildlife jungles to the world but also other attractions around the continent including wildlife parks, landscape, active volcanoes, waterfalls, culture, mountains, lakes, cities and many others. Many gorilla tourists come to Africa to see mountain gorillas and other attractions in different countries of their interest.