Before you go trekking with gorillas in East Africa, you should know how to survive a gorilla attack. Gorillas, and specifically the mountain gorilla sub-species are the world’s largest living primates, which can weigh more than 400 pounds and a height of 6ft. tall when standing on two legs.
Mountain gorillas are known to dwell within the jungles of East and central Africa, where the tropical forests of central Africa intercept with undulating Savannah of the Eastern Africa. Uganda is a famed gorilla habitat with over 50% population of world’s total mountain gorillas surviving in its 4 distinct regions. This is followed by Rwanda which is home to more than quarter of world’s mountain gorilla population and D.R. Congo which has only ten mountain gorilla families well habituated for trekking purposes.
Despite their immense energy, mountain gorillas are known to be one of the most peaceful animals, until they’re disturbed or stressed – more Koko and less King Kong. The strength of one mature silverback is equivalent to the strength of 4 – 6 men combined. Silverbacks use this energy to defend their families against any threats, attacks and any other possible danger, but not necessarily to attack visitors.
Mountain gorillas are naturally shy animals, and they tend to keep their face away from direct contact with their visitors; therefore, it is on rare and unfortunate instances that a gorilla can attack a visitor.
When does a mountain gorilla gets upset?
A mountain gorilla is primarily a reserved and calm creature, but can charge any time it senses danger. Gorillas portray this discomfort by first making several threats – grunts and loud hoots.
The threats escalate into aggression and violent attacks, coupled with hitting its chest and standing on its hind limbs. At this stage if no action is taken, as may be advised by your ranger guides, a gorilla will charge aggressively, followed by strikes, brutal bites, scratches and can grab ones leg and drag them away.
What to do when a gorilla charges?
Be submissive. Always remain submissive and passive when a gorilla attempts to charge at you. Do not raise your voice or raise your arms, as this will alert the charged gorilla that you are ready for a fight.
Learn gorilla behaviors before the encounter. Read a few journals and online articles about behaviors and lifestyle of mountain gorillas and how to avoid the attacks. One of the main characters of a mountain gorilla is shyness, and looking directly in its eyes maybe dangerous. Always when amidst a gorilla family, pretend to look disinterested or look away to minimize chances of gorilla attacks and charges.
If possible, crouch down. When a gorilla looks disinterested in your presence or charges, attempt to crouch down and look small; the gorilla may think you’re one of them or may decide to just ignore.
Keep calm, and do not react. A mountain gorilla may get close to you or even grab you in a playful manner; do not miss-interpret this gesture as though it’s an attack. When such a thing happens, remain calm and friendly. Screaming or even scaring away the gorilla may be aggressive and even an attack. Fortunately, gorillas are naturally friendly beings, calm and do not pose any threats unless it is in defense against provocations and threats.