Mountain Gorilla | Gorilla beringei beringei
Status: Critically Endangered
Height: 4 to 5 ½ ft
Weight: Up to 440lbs
Habitat: forests, mountain
Mountain gorillas live in forests high in the mountains, half of the population live in the forests of the Virunga Mountains, of Central Africa at elevations of 8,000 to 13,000 feet where temperatures drop to dangerous levels, often below freezing. They have thicker fur than other gorillas to help protect them from the harsh weather. As humans continue to encroach on the gorillas' territory, they are forced further up the mountain for longer periods where they must endure dangerous, sometimes live-threatening conditions.
Mountain gorillas have longer hair and shorter arms than their lowland counterparts. Gorillas live in groups of 2 to 40 and have one dominant male that acts as chief and protector - the silverback. Females give birth around 10 and have offspring every 4 to 5 years. Gorilla infants develop twice as fast as humans and are weaned at 3, when they are more independent. Young gorillas are often described by human observers as childlike - they spend their days chasing one another, swinging from branches, playing, and climbing trees. They are capable of climbing trees, but are often found on the ground where they eat roots, fruits, shoots, wild celery, tree bark, and pulp.
Conservation efforts to protect the mountain gorilla have been increasingly successful in the past decade, despite continued threats (listed below), and their population has grown.
Habitat loss due to human encroachment, the clearing of the land for agriculture, and grazing livestock has forced many gorillas off their land. Gorillas are also vulnerable to human diseases and experience them in more severe forms. Charcoal harvested in Virunga National Park used for heating and cooking has also destroyed a lot of their habitat. This industry is an illegal, multi-million dollar enterprise. While there is little direct targeting of gorillas for meat or trade, gorillas are often caught in snares meant for other animals. War and civil unrest in the area has also created many challenges for the gorilla population, including habitat destruction, poaching, and restricted conservation efforts.
Sources: World Wildlife Fund, National Geographic