Violence in eastern Congo by the
rebel leader Nkunda is threatening the existence of
mountain gorillas in Congo Virunga national park. Fighting
intensified in August 2008, when fighting heated up
between the army and fighters loyal to Nkunda. More
than 250,000 people have been driven from their homes
in the violence and some 17,000 U.N. peacekeepers have
not been able to quell the chaos.
Nkunda the leader of an ethnic Tutsi, says his rebels
are fighting to protect Congo’s minority Tutsis from
the Hutu militia that fled here after helping perpetrate
the 1994 genocide that killed more than half a million
Tutsis in Rwanda. But his critics contend he is more
interested in power and Congo’s mineral wealth.
Some fear the current crisis could once again draw in
neighboring countries. Congo’s devastating 1998-2002
war split the vast nation into rival fiefdoms and involved
half a dozen African armies.
This fighting is taking place inside the Virunga national
park where mountain
gorillas find there home for years.
Gorillas, chimpanzees gorangutans and humans all belong
to the order of primates. Human share 98.4% of their
genetic material with gorillas and 98.8% with chimpanzees
.Gorillas the largest of the great apes are divided
into three subspecies that include the western lowland
gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and the eastern lowland
gorillas (Gorilla gorilla graueri). The eastern and
western lowland gorillas were identified for science
in 1847 and 1877 respectively.
The third subspecies –the mountain gorilla (Gorilla
gorilla beringei),was identified for scientific purpose
in the year 1903 and has gone on to become Uganda’s
Mountain gorillas are physically distinct from lowland
gorillas. They are larger have more hair a short truck
a broad chest and shoulders and also have a longer and
slightly different nose shape.
Mountains gorillas are born small covered with black
hair and usually weigh about 2.3 kilogrammes. Gorillas
develop about as twice as human babies with the mature
female mother also undergoing a gestation period of
nine months. They are unique species, as a gorilla with
an infant may not have another baby for up to four years.
Good family Planning.
Male and Female gorillas between the age of three ands
six years are classed as juvenile. They increase in
size and weight at similar rates for the first six years.
On reaching six years most mountain gorillas weigh about
68 kg and are usually about four feet tall.
The female mountain gorillas stop growing taller at
around six years where as the males continue growing
both in size and weight till they reach the age of ten
Between the ages of six and ten the males have a black
hair colour and are thus referred to as the black backs.
On reaching maturity, which is usually between 10 and
12 years they develop silverly, grey hairs on their
backs there by being referred to as silver backs.
The silver backs usually leave their parental group
at the age of 11 and then moves alone or in the company
of other males for a few years before managing to attract
females from other groups to him hence forming his own
family. Silver back is a dominant male in a group of
about 12 or more gorillas that usually include female
juveniles and other infants. Will find them chewing
leaves laughing and farting not only continuously but
with a lot of contentment. They are diurnal and nomadic
sleeping each night in a fresh nest built from leaves
and branches. Mountain gorillas are primary vegetarian
with menu comprising bamboo nettle and gallium being
some of their favorites.
They occasionally also eat safari ants which are scooped
in huge handful to stuff into the mouths until the safari
ant bites over power them. Gorillas spend most of their
time traveling and foraging in search of food since
plants and trees change with seasons.
Gorillas communicate through vocalizations.
Twenty-five district vocalizations have so far been
recognized with each one having its own particular meaning
As an element of their socialization they communicate
through howls grunts barks and hoots screams and are
hoots scream and roars signal alarm or warning and are
often produced by silverbacks.
They also communicate by beating on their chests or
on the ground. This is done to show stature prevent
a fight or even scarce off opponents. However even the
infant beat their chests as a kind of displacement activity
during play perhaps just to copy their elders.
Mountain gorilla life is peaceful and quite .It is from
this that they have come to be called Africa gentle
giants. These gentle giants are found in the areas of
park des Vulcan’s in Rwanda and Virunga National park
in the Democratic Republic of Congo while in UgandaMgahinga
Gorilla National park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
National park. they are confined to
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National park was gazetted
in 1992 is situated in southwestern Uganda on the edge
of the western rift valley Albertine rift and is shared
by Kanungu, Kabale and Kisoro districts. It is 331 square
km in size on an altitude range of 1,160metre Ishasha
gorge to 2,607metres Rwamanyonyi peak.
In 1993 I was among the people who arranged the first
clients to track gorillas. Working with one of the old
tour companies before setting up Travel Hemispheres
, arranged among the first clients to track gorillas
in Bwindi national park. It was quite big fun and achievement
at that time and ever since lots of clients have passed
through my hands to track gorillas in Uganda , Bwindi
and Congo. Thus the experience is enormous and can speak
for its self. We at Travel Hemispheres have calculated
experience and all our clients handled speak out towards
The total number of mountain gorillas in Bwindi is approximately
340 which is almost over half of the total estimated
720 left in the whole world. Gorilla tourism provides
over 50% of tourism revenue for Uganda thus being a
strong reason for its protection.
Currently the rebel insurgency in the Democratic Republic
of Congo characterized by the massive movement of people
in the region could be a danger to conservation of this
Rangers have been murdered in the park camps and equipment
for the park authorities have been robbed and destroyed.
At this time the safety of these gentle giants –moreover
our closest cousins life is at stake . Our appeal is
to international bodies that may have solution to offer
can do it at the earliest before we see them wiped out.
By Fred Bukenya and more his articles can be viewed