The lush Virunga ranges are home to over 1000 mountain gorillas – the only place with these endangered primates. Meeting the mighty mountain gorillas in the wild is one of those mesmerizing experiences that one will always remember for lifetime. Mountain gorillas are only found in Uganda, (with the highest population), Rwanda and D.R. Congo inhabited within 4 different national parks, namely Bwindi and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks, Volcanoes National Park and Virunga National Park.
Just like other primates, mountain gorillas are known to be social animals, which live in groups called families. Each family is made up of between 5-30 members who live in harmony with each under the leadership of a silverback. Silverback is a dominant male gorilla that assumes leadership of any given family; responsible for making decisions on behalf of the family, offering utmost protection, looking for food during times of scarcity, among other vital roles.
Key facts about Silverback gorillas
Silverback gorillas are huge beings, weighing an average of 400 pound and 6ft in height, much heavier than the female counter parts which weigh between 200 pounds and around 4ft tall. Silverbacks’ heads are bigger than females, due to a ridge on their skull which acts as an anchor where its huge jaw muscles are connected.
A Silverback’s arm length is longer, stretching 2.3-2.6m, while female gorilla’s arm length is proportionally shorter. There is normally one dominant silverback within a given gorilla family; however many Silverbacks can live in one family harmoniously.
Male gorillas become Silverbacks at the age of 13 years. This is the time when they develop a silver patch of hair across its back and to the flanks, where its name is derived. It is at this stage that they leave their mother families to join other families and gain dominance.
Although naturally calm and peaceful creatures, a silverback is furious and may charge at anything that seems to be threat to his family. These may include human beings, other animals and fellow Silverbacks who show interest in challenging him for dominance in his family. As the supreme family leader, a silverback defines the general routine of the family, including feeding, movements, and sleeping times and may even define the family’s territory.
A silverback mates with all the female gorillas in the group and assumes the breeding rights. Though getting in close contact with the beautiful gorillas is a memorable encounter, but a sight at the gigantic silverback as he pounds his chest in check of your brevity spices up the entire gorilla trek experience.