Introduction

Around one third of the world’s mountain gorillas live in the resource-rich Virunga mountains, the exploitation of which threatens the species’ very existence. Far less abundant and more beautiful than oil or gold, this majestic great ape is the Congo’s real treasure.

The Facts

    01
    Habitat

    The gorillas’ biodiverse rainforest environment is stratified into specific vegetative zones based on altitude. Most of their time is spent near the base of the mountains, where vegetation grows more densely. The air throughout the mountain’s zones is moist and misty, leading them to be known as cloud forests.

    Gorilla family in rainforest

  • 01
    Habitat

    Over one third of the estimated 1,000 remaining mountain gorillas live in the protected forests of Virunga National Park. Compared to their eastern lowland cousins, mountain gorillas have thick hair, an adaptation which protects them against the sub-zero temperatures often encountered at altitudes of 7 – 14,000 ft.

  • 02
    Behavior

    Challenges to dominant silverbacks are met with impressive displays of strength and aggression, including charges, chest-beating, and vocal intimidation. Despite this, gorillas generally reside in a state of calm and subsist on a mainly herbivorous diet of roots, shoots, fruit, bark and pulp, with about 0.1% coming from invertebrates.

    Picture of Gorilla family relaxing in forest

  • 02
    Behavior

    Like most primates, mountain gorillas are social animals. They live in groups of fascinating complexity called troops or bands, led by a dominant alpha male known as a silverback. The silverback protects its members and directs troop activities such as nesting, feeding and migration between seasonal feeding areas.

  • 03
    Physical Characteristics

    The streak of silver hair after which mature males are named develops following adolescence. Gorillas walk on their knuckles, have dark brown irises encircled by black rings, and possess unique nose prints. Mountain gorilla adults, as well as having thicker and longer fur, tend to be smaller than other subspecies.

    Image of gorilla silverback

  • 03
    Physical Characteristics

    After nearly nine months of gestation, infants enter the world weighing only four pounds. From four months they begin clinging to their mothers’ backs, remaining there for two or three years. Despite beginning life so small, adult males typically weigh 430 pounds and can stand five feet tall.