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Extinction watch: A song for the Virunga Gorillas

Slightly more than half of the large apes live in what is known as the cloud forests, the Virunga Mountains that border the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda andUganda. The rest live in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda.

A thick fur keeps them warm as do the nests they live in crowding together at night for bonding and keeping warm. Most mountain gorillas live in groups of 10 individuals, with one dominant male and several females.

An average male mountain gorilla can weigh 180 kg, and measure 170 cm (over 5’5”) tall.

Their diet mostly consists of bamboo, fruit and leafy plants. Adult gorillas can eat up to 30 kg of food each day.

They have 16 different kinds of call — from short barks to mighty roars.

The main threat is the destruction of their habitat as humans invade their space to collect water, fi rewood, convert the forest into farmland and the ongoing civil unrest also.

The good news? In 2008, the population of mountain gorillas was estimated to be 680 but the most recent estimates show an increase to above 1,000 individuals.

That is why the species has been reclassifi ed from Critically Endangered to Endangered by the IUCN.

Congolese musician Samba Mapangala wrote a song called Les Gorilles des Montagnes which talks about the importance of the mountain gorillas and their habitat, emphasising that they are the foundation of ecotourism, which will improve local livelihoods.

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