Africa Travel News

Find the mysterious mountain gorillas of Uganda

There's something awe-inspiring about the mountain gorillas that make their home on the thickly forested highlands of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. Large and powerful, the mountain gorillas live in careful seclusion, keeping to themselves in the trees or on the forest floor. As a result of habitat loss, poaching and disease, the mountain gorilla has become on endangered species. In fact, fewer than 900 gorillas remain today, according to the African Wildlife Foundation. 

Despite their small numbers and shy behavior, some lucky tourists get to see some of these rare creatures up close and personal in the wild on touring expeditions. Spotting the gorillas is a huge part of Uganda wildlife watching, since close to half of the mountain gorilla population live in the country's Bwindi Forest.

Facts and silverbacks
Mountain gorillas are very intelligent social creatures. Some gorillas in captivity have been able to learn simple human sign language, according to National Geographic. They live in groups of up to 30 and are lead by one dominant male. The head silverback is in charge of keeping the group safe from threats. The silverback decides when the group wakes up, eats or has to move locations. Normally, the dominant male is the largest and most powerful mountain gorilla in the group. These creatures can grow to be 6 feet tall and over 400 pounds. When the male silverback is challenged, it can show impressive feats of strength, and the leader is usually the most aggressive in the group. However, generally, gorillas are actually quite shy, according to Defenders of Wildlife. Mountain gorillas will refrain from engaging or even approaching people unless provoked.

A growing population
Mountain gorillas in Uganda used to suffer from poachers and hunters who would kill the gorillas for sport and money. However, the country has been able to almost completely eradicate gorilla hunting within recent years, Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, founder of Conservation Through Public Health, told CNN Travel.

"This is thanks to increased protection, the elimination of almost all poaching and the fact that we have been able to show local communities how saving the gorillas is beneficial to local health and the local economy," Zikusoka told the news agency.

Now, the population of mountain gorillas in Uganda is slowly rising, and tourists are welcome to go on intimate gorilla watching expeditions.

For more popular primate trips, tourists may want to visit the Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali. Here, unparalleled luxury is mixed into the lush forest, so you can blend mingling with the monkeys with some high-end relaxing.

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