Uganda Travel Blog

How Mountain Gorillas Behave

Mountain Gorillas are non-enclave apes that live in groups of 3 to 40 members. Such groups can either have 1 Silverback or a maximum of 4, a few black backs and several of females and young ones.

They do not have territories and wander freely around mountainous areas in search for food. They mainly survive on plants and fruits.

A Silverback is usually the most powerful and oldest in the group. Its the only one that has rights to breed with females in groups. For a black back to gain breeding rights, he either has to challenge the Silverback and defeat him and leave the group to form his own.

Females that have clocked adolescence will flee their natal family and join another. The group she produces will suddenly becomes her permanent family.

Statuses of female recruits vary and solely depends on how they joined a family. The females that have been in the group for long usually have higher statuses and are considered more by a Silverback.

Male Mountain Gorillas have to flee their natal troop and form another to gain breeding rights. This process takes a couple of years and as time moves on, so does his distance.

When you go gorilla trekking in Uganda, Rwanda or Congo, you will see how dominant a Silverback is and how gorilla families behave.

Social Mountain Gorilla Behavior

A Silverback is very aggressive compared to other group members. Its his responsibility to keep his family safe at all times and in case of any challenges, he is the one that represents the group. When he loses a battle, he loses his entire group to another Silverback.

The black backs cannot get in between a fight to help their leader triumph. They will follow the victor after a fight.

When it comes to decision making, a Silverback takes lead. He makes most calls, eats the most even when food is little and can put an end to a bad behavior with looks.

For a black back to acquire their own family, they should have established a territorial range and developed enough strength to challenge or protect himself from his rivals.

This is why majority of the Silverbacks get their own families when they are at least fifteen years of age. At this age, he has enough capabilities to run his own troop.

On the side of females, they are not close to one another and often try so hard to win a Silverback’s favor. Even when they give birth, they will only maintain a close bond with their young ones for a period of three years. This bond then keeps getting lose as the gorilla grows.

Silverbacks compete so much for females. One of the Silverbacks in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park takes great pride in snatching females from other groups. That’s his only way of feeling superior.

A Silverback that is looking to start his own family will go as far as challenging his fellow so that he snatches women from his group and gains breeding rights.

Mountain Gorillas use nose to nose greetings and gestures like touches.

How Gorillas behave Individually

Mountain Gorillas sleep in nests built from bamboo trees and plants. Each night they build a new nest because of their mobility. The presence of nesting resources will determine where they will sleep. Young ones sleep besides the mother until they make three years of age.

Gorillas walk quadrupedally. Its only in a few occasions that they move bipedally. Their style of walk is called knuckle-walking. This is because they walk on knuckles and not palms.

The large body size of gorillas makes it hard for them to move for long distances. Their mobility is limited to a kilometer or less and often occurs when they are looking for food.

Gorillas do not compete for food neither do they share it.

How Gorillas protect themselves

A Silverback takes the responsibility of keeping his group safe, secure and out of disagreements. Usually when he gets into a challenge, he thumps his check and produces a loud scary voice along with a very strong smell which humans can smell from 26 yards away.

They will charge at the opponent and if the opponent does not show any signs of bowing down, they will continue to attack and fight them.

Most of their charges are usually fake. Its unlikely for a gorilla to charge and follow up with its threat immediately. Most of the times they will charge to give their family enough time to move to a safe place.

If the opponent continues oppressing them, they will go and and fight them and the other members of the troop protect their young ones.

Are Gorillas Aggressive?

Mountain Gorillas have distinct characters. Some are aggressive and some are humble. Clients who go gorilla trekking only get to meet habituated gorillas.

The habituation process makes gorillas used to humans and less harmful. Such gorilla can even get close to you. feel your skin and play with you.

Gorillas only get aggressive when oppressed. Looking them straight in the eye for a long time shows you are interested in challenging them causing them to charge at you.

When a gorilla charges on you, you have to kneel and look down. This is a sign that you have accepted defeat.

Silverbacks are much more aggressive to each other especially those who are trying to snatch females from other troops and start their own.

Their only fate of starting up a family would be challenging another Silverback to defeat and moving away with his adult females.

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