Mountain gorillas are one of the rarest animals on earth; fewer than 700 remain and there are none in captivity. To visit them on the forested slopes of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest ranks as one of life’s all-time greatest moments, an experience to be cherished long after the event.
There are about 340 mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, almost half the world’s population of these huge, yet gentle and endearing primates. Typically, they are found in family groups of between five and fifteen individuals with one dominant male, known as a silverback, who is the largest and strongest of the group. Mountain gorillas are the largest of all apes and a mature male can stand over six feet in height and weigh in excess of 400 pounds. Dominance among the group’s males appears to be determined by size and strength. It is the dominant male who decides when the group will move, stop, rest, and where the group will spend the night. Mountain gorilla groups are stable, cohesive units that spend most of their time on the ground, “knuckle-walking” through the forest within their respective home ranges. Despite their immense size and strength, gorillas are typically gentle beings, intelligent and dignified. They are endlessly patient with each other and disputes are settled quickly. They are primarily vegetarian, with the leaves, shoots, and stems of a wide range of rain forest plants making up a majority of their diet.