What do Gorillas Eat ?
What do Gorillas Eat? This is a question always crossed curious minds especially those of our little kids. Gorillas are herbivorous animals and their diet is largely composed of green leaves, bamboo shoots and seeds.
Gorillas are categorized into two species which each divided into two subspecies. We have western gorilla species which are divided into two subspecies namely; Cross River gorillas and Western Lowland gorillas. Another gorilla species is the eastern gorilla and it has two subspecies which include; Mountain gorillas and the Eastern Lowland gorillas.
Mountain gorillas are highly sought after by many tourists and can only be found in three countries in the world namely; Bwindi Impenetrable national park and Mgahinga Gorilla national park in Uganda, Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Gorillas are the largest and strongest primates on earth that share 98% DNA with humans. The mountain gorillas are the great Ape species that live and move around in groups that range from 2 to 40 individual members with the silverback as the leader of the family.
The Silverback holds the leadership position for years where by it decides on the feeding area, time of feeding, settles disputes, fights and protects the family from other Gorilla groups among others until it becomes old and another silverback takes over.
The endangered mountain gorillas live in the tropical rainforests of Africa in DR Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. Virunga national park in Democratic Republic of Congo has eight habituated gorilla families that are available for tourists to track on a daily basis. Bwindi Impenetrable national park in Uganda has the highest number of mountain gorillas in the world, with 18 habituated gorilla families available for visitors to track. Mgahinga Gorilla national park, also in Uganda, currently has two habituated gorilla groups with the recent addition being the Hirwa gorilla group which migrated from Volcanoes national park in Rwanda. Rwanda has 14 habituated gorilla families with only 10 available for tourists to track while the rest are meant for research purposes.
What the gorillas eat depends on their natural habitat and the season or time of the year. Gorillas are herbivores that mainly feed on vegetation as their main diet and green plants including stems, flowers, buds, barks, seeds, bamboo shoots, fruits, grasses, vines, herbs, roots, leaves and young branches.
Gorillas also consume ash and soil to regulate their digestive system, neutralize poisonous substances that exist in some of the plants they feed on and to add minerals to their system which are not found in the plants that they feed on. They also feed on the insects like ants, snails, caterpillars, and termites among others to a small percentage of about 2% so as to get proteins.
Mountain gorillas are different from the lowland gorillas due to the size and the eating habits in that the mountain gorillas are slightly smaller from the lowland gorillas and mainly feed on vegetation or green plants because they live in the rain forests at a high altitude or elevation which doesn’t support a lot of fruit growth compared to the lowland gorillas which are somehow bigger in size and their diet is mostly composed of fruits, and during the dry seasons when the fruits tend to fall down at a high speed they adapt to climbing up in the trees to harvest the fruits and are sometimes forced to eat plenty of seeds and tree barks.
Mountain gorillas in the rainforests of Africa consume over 142 plant species where they feed on leaves, stems, bamboo shoots which make up about 86% of their diet with 7% of the diet composed of the edible roots that they feed on, 3% composed of the flowers, 2% composed of fruits and 2% composed of the ants, grubs, snails.
Gorillas have a set of 32 teeth just like the humans which are used for chewing and process the plants eaten except the adult gorillas which develop long pointed canines when they are mature which are used for fighting other male gorillas. An adult male gorilla consumes about 30 kilograms of vegetation daily while a female gorilla consumes18 kilograms of vegetation daily. Mountain gorillas rarely drink water because the vegetation they consume is highly tender, tasty, juicy which stores and provides half of the water that the gorillas need to survive and also get water from the mist in the morning.
Mountain gorillas are selective while feeding on the plants in that they don’t complete all the vegetation in one area rather they can consume the roots of a particular plant, eat the stems of another plant, eat the leaves of another and so on hence allowing re-growth of the vegetation that they were feeding on because they keep rotating from one place to another, gorillas can move from in a range of 3 to 6 kilometers each day looking for food to eat and can as well move on two legs and two arms but can also move on two legs and move up to 20 feet distance.
Gorillas communicate with each other using over 25 different sounds like roars, shouts, grunts, screams, growls, hooting, the obvious chest thumping among others. Gorillas communicate when they want to find food, express distress, offering support to each other, when mating and so on. Gorillas are herbivores that depend 100 percent on their habitats, which provides them with food inform of plants, fruits, vegetation and also shelter. These are however basic items for their survival.
Gorillas can live for 35 years and above, the Female gorillas start giving birth between 10 to 12 years of age and have a gestation period of 8.5 months and give birth to one baby after every 2 to 3 years hence giving birth to 4 to 6 offspring’s throughout their lifetime which makes the population growth hard and therefore making it hard for the gorilla population to grow. After birth the young ones can weigh about 3 to 4 kilograms and feed on breast milk for five months where the mothers feed them once per hour till the age of 4 years. Adult male gorillas weigh from 136kilograms to 196 kilograms and are 5 to 9 feet tall while the females weigh from between 68kilograms to 113kilograms and are 5 feet tall.
Best time to visit Gorillas
Gorillas can be visited throughout the year; although the best time is during the dry season in the months of June, July, August, September, December, January and February when there is less rainfall, drier grounds for trekking and easy sighting of the gorillas due to short vegetation in the forests compared to the wet season in the months of March to May and October to November when there is rainfalls, difficult to trek and view the gorillas, slippery and muddy grounds among others.
Conclusion: If you are interested in seeing mountain gorillas in their natural habitat, you can book your gorilla trekking permit in Uganda for a fee of USD 700 dollars and USD 1500 dollars if you which to track mountain gorillas in Volcanoes national park in Rwanda. A gorilla trekking permit in Congo costs USD 400 per person and you can track both Mountain gorillas in Virunga national park and the eastern lowland gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega national park.
Book a gorilla trekking safari now with Explore Rwanda Tours and get an opportunity to see and learn more about gorillas!