Brief about Eastern Lowland gorillas Congo
Eastern Lowland gorillas (also known as Grauer’s gorillas) make up a sub-species of the Eastern gorilla. The other Eastern gorilla sub-species are the mountain gorillas that exist only in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. Compared to other sub-species of gorillas, the Lowland gorillas are slightly bigger. They stand 4 to 5 feet tall from the ground and have a weight of up to 440 pounds.
Kahuzi-Biega National Park Congo is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. This shelters an estimated population of about 300 Eastern Lowland gorillas in the jungles of Congo. Currently, 5 habituated Lowland gorilla families are available for gorilla trekking in Kahuzi-Biega National Park including among others Chimanuka and Mugaruka families.
The Grauer’s gorillas are one of the two sub-species of Gorillas that inhabit most parts of central and eastern Africa, in D.R.Congo, Congo Brazzaville and Gabon due to the thickness of the jungles which are preferred by these special apes. The eastern lowland gorillas tend to be very common than their cousins, mountain gorillas which are only found in Rwanda, Uganda and D.R.Congo. The two species are different from each other by their bodies, hands and nature of the muzzle.
The eastern lowland gorillas are communal and tend to live in groups/families under the leadership and protection of Alpha, the dominant male who is responsible for the family’s security and survival. Alpha mates with the females in his group to produce the babies and the babies stay with the mother until 3years old before becoming independent.
Because of its enormous size, eastern lowland gorillas possess very few predators apart from humans who poach them and illegal poaching in has contributed to drastic reduction in the number of these species to an estimated 5000 eastern lowland gorillas now surviving in the wild, while their mountain gorilla counter parts are only estimated to be 880 individuals.
These gorilla species are one of the most admired primates that travelers crave to see on their safari to Africa, and they attract a huge number of adventure fanatics who visit the African continent just to have memorable encounter with the eastern lowland gorillas in Democratic Republic of Congo in the famous Kahuzi Biega national park in the eastern province of the country. The eastern lowland gorilla is an amazing creature that belongs to the ape family, with so much resemblance with mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, Orang-Utans, and unique similarities to human beings. This eastern lowland gorilla possesses very special features that make the central African jungle a perfect habitat for it to live.
Habitat and ecology
The eastern lowland gorilla has the widest altitudinal range of any of the gorilla subspecies, being found in mountainous, transitional and lowland tropical forests. One of the most studied eastern lowland gorilla population lives in the highlands of Kahuzi-Biega, where habitats vary between dense primary forests to moderately moist woodland, to Cyperus swamp and peat bog.
Gorillas do not eat banana fruits, but they may destroy banana trees to eat the nutritious pith. The eastern lowland gorilla shows a preference for regenerating vegetation associated with abandoned villages and fields. Farmers who have come in contact with gorillas in their plantations have killed the gorilla and obtained a double benefit, protecting their crop and using the meat of the gorilla to sell at the market.
Eastern lowland gorilla has a varied plants diet including fruits, leaves, stems and bark as well as small insects such as ants and termites. Although they occasionally eat ants, insects form only a minor part of their diet. In comparison to western lowland gorillas, found in low altitude tropical forests, eastern lowland gorillas travel much less and increase their consumption of herbaceous vegetation.
Characteristics and Behavior
Eastern Lowland Gorillas are peaceful, mainly herbivorous animals that live in groups of 5-30 individuals. Individual males can weigh up to 250kg in captivity, but in the wild they usually weigh 200kg. Females are significantly smaller, with a maximum weight of 110kg. Eastern Lowland Gorillas live in family groups consisting of a large dominant male Gorilla and females and infants. Males are known as “Silverbacks” in reference to the distinctive silver hairs on their back upon reaching maturity. Gorillas are identified by their “nose prints,” which are the patterns of wrinkles on their noses. Each gorilla has a unique nose print.
The gestation period for female gorillas is 8 ½ months. Gorilla infants are helpless at birth, learning to walk independently around 9 months. Infant gorillas are nursed for about 3 years before becoming fully independent. Female gorillas gain maturity around the age of 10 years old and have only one baby every four years, meaning that over the 25 year life span she will only give birth to an average of 3 offspring. The slow reproductive rate means that it can take many years for a population to recover from threats such as hunting and ongoing conflict.
The diet of Eastern Lowland Gorillas mainly consists of leaves, but they have also been observed consuming fruit, seeds, bamboo shoots and insects. Mostly active during the day, they make a new nest each night, with mothers sharing with infants. Watching a gorilla sitting peacefully in the forest eating and socializing is a truly magical experience.
Gorillas communicate in a variety of different ways. Vocal communication occurs between individual gorillas, and within larger groups. Adults and infants have a variety of different calls depending on the situation. “Close” calls are commonly given within the group in situations of either potential separation or potential conflict. Extra-group calls serve to alert group members of potential predation and include “barks” or are given as long-distance threat displays upon detection of another group. These can also be accompanied by chest beating, a common non vocal communication method.
A group usually consists of one silverback, several females and their offspring. Silverbacks are strong and each group has one dominant leader (see alpha male). These males protect their group from danger. Young silverback males will slowly begin to leave their natal group when they reach maturity, and will then attempt to attract females to form their own group.
Relatively little is known about the social behavior, history and ecology of eastern lowland gorillas, partly because of civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, some aspects of social behavior have been studied. For example, gorillas form harems which may include two full-grown males. One third of gorilla groups in East Africa have two grown males in their group.
Most primates are bonded together by the relationship between females, a pattern also seen in many human families. Once they reach maturity, both females and males usually leave the group. Females usually join another group or a lone silverback adult male, whereas males may stay together temporarily, until they attract females and establish their own groups. It is commonly believed that the structure of the gorilla group is to prevent predation.
A female will give birth to a single infant after a gestation period of about 8½ months. They breastfeed for about three years. The baby can crawl at around nine weeks old and can walk at about 35 weeks old. Infant gorillas normally stay with their mother for three to four years and mature at around 8 years old (females) and 12 years old (males).