The Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) is a species of gorilla, native to East Africa, which is typically characterized by its dense black fur, broad face and massive jaw. With somewhere around 700-800 odd individuals remaining in the wild, it has been enlisted as a 'Critically Endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). What's surprising is that even today, with only a few hundred species remaining in the wild, some of the most interesting facts about its habitat and diet continue to elude people. If at all people know anything about the habitat of this species, it is the fact that they inhabit the densely forested mountains of East Africa.
Mountain Gorilla: Geographical Range and Habitat
The geographical range of Mountain Gorilla species is restricted to the four national parks of East Africa as of today. In a broad sense, this entire population of this species is divided into two groups on the basis of which part of this region they inhabit. While the first group is found in the Virunga Mountains - a chain of volcanic mountains in East Africa, the second group is found in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in the African nation of Uganda. The fact that these two regions lie 28 miles apart from each other has given rise to the belief that the group of Mountain Gorillas which inhabits the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park of Uganda is actually a separate sub-species of this animal. However, there has been no word about the same from the concerned authorities as of today.
The Virunga Mountain population of the Mountain Gorilla species spans across the three national parks of this region - the Volcano National Park in Rwanda, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda and the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Virunga Mountain chain is made up of eight volcanoes, some of which are categorized as 'active' even today. The largest concentration of Mountain Gorilla population is seen on the slopes of three main volcanoes - the Karisimbi (which is the highest volcano in this region towering at a whopping 14,000 ft), Mikeno (14,557 ft) and Visoke (12,175 ft).
Mountain Gorillas are found in the montane cloud forests of this region, which lie at an altitude ranging between 7,200-14,100 ft. In this region, the vegetation is very dense at the foot of the mountains, and starts getting sparse with increase in altitude. In these thick montane cloud forests, this herbivorous species faces no dearth of food. Their diet - which is strictly vegetarian, consists of shoots, roots, fruits, and - at times, the bark of a tree. While these cloud forests are misty and cold - wherein temperatures fall with altitude, the thick fur that this gorilla species sports acts as an adaptation, and helps them survive in the cold climate with ease.
The fact that there has been a sharp decline in Mountain Gorilla population over the last few decades can be attributed to a number of factors, with habitat loss being the most prominent factor of them all. The rich mountain soil of this region is suitable for agricultural practices, and this has resulted in increase in human settlements in this region. Human encroachment in their natural habitat, for agricultural practices and logging, has resulted in fragmentation of habitat for this species. Human encroachment has also resulted in human-gorilla conflict in this region, with casualties on both sides.
Other that loss of habitat, poaching and diseases, which are also attributed to human influx in the natural habitat of this species, have also contributed to the decline in number of Mountain Gorillas in the wild and added it to the list of endangered gorilla species. The need of this hour is implementation of conservation measures which are stuck in red tapes, and if we don't work on implementation of these measures now, it wouldn't be long before we lose this animal with whom we share 98 percent of our genetic traits.