For two hours now you have been trekking through the dense jungle of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, hyper-aware of every detail of your surroundings. The heat and bugs, however, have zero impact on your level of concentration. You are on a mission. Just as you start to feel a hint of fatigue, the moment arrives. Your guide spots a family of gorillas resting just 20 feet away! The alpha of the group turns and your eyes meet. It’s both terrifying and familiar.
What’s your first reaction to this? Do you take a photo? Do you scream? Or do you soak in the incredible experience of staring at a creature that shares 95% of your DNA? Discover Corps traveler, Alex, was recently presented with just this scenario on his Uganda: Gorilla Conservation Adventure:
“At first our group was excited to take photos of the gorillas, but it was the 45 minutes we got to spend after that initial adrenaline was over that took my breath away. The mannerisms of the gorillas and how similar they were to humans was mesmerizing to watch and something I will never forget”
Alex is not alone in this sentiment. This experience – after the obligatory photos – leaves so many travelers in awe of these incredible animals. They are truly an amazing sight to behold. So in honor of these special primates, we present you with 10 amazing gorilla facts:
Gorillas Share 95% or More of Our DNA
This fact, alluded to in the introduction, is astonishing. Surely, it is a large part of the appeal of encountering gorillas. To come face-to-face with a species that so closely resembles us in appearance and behavior, is an unforgettable experience.
Big Green Eaters
A full grown adult male gorilla can consume as much as 40 pounds of vegetation per day. This can be equivalent to 10% of its body weight. To put it in perspective, other things that can weigh 40 pounds include: a 5-gallon bottle of water, a heavy duty microwave, and even a 15-foot canoe!
In 2005, gorillas were first observed using simple tools in the wild. This information was important to researchers and scientists as it provided insight into the evolution of the species. Some of the tool-using activities observed were the use of sticks to test the depth of water and for assistance in crossing swampy places.
Smarts from the Start
Often overlooked for chimps, which have been extensively studied for more than 50 years by Jane Goodall’s organization and others, gorillas have been found to be very intelligent. False assumptions were made in the past because of the gorillas’ ability to use brute force in everyday activities, instead of displaying clever strategies.
The dominant male of a group may show signs of aggression in the form of noises and gestures to outsiders as a defense mechanism, but generally, gorillas seek to live peaceful lives. Avoiding conflict is almost always preferred to a violent encounter.
It’s a Sign!
Gorillas have an intricate set of communication methods used in the wild, but also have shown the capacity to learn sign language. One well known gorilla understands roughly 2,000 words of spoken English and can respond in GSL – Gorilla Sign Language.
Gorillas have faith?
Some researchers who have witnessed gorillas exhibit emotions similar to those experienced by humans believe it’s possible they possess religious-like outlooks on life. Qualities such as empathy, rule-making and following, and imagination, could make this a reality.
To the surprise of many, gorillas rarely require fresh water to remain hydrated. Their vegetation-heavy diet, with morning dew included, provides a sufficient amount of fluids needed for good health and daily physical activities.
Silverback = Human Beards
The appearance of certain silver hair patterns on a silverback gorilla indicate the sexual maturity of males. This is similar to facial hair on human males – and signifies which males are elders and leaders of a group. Having this distinction comes with the responsibility of making important decisions on behalf of all group members, and protecting them for a wide range of threats, including predators.
Conservation is Needed
These facts highlight another very obvious fact: we must work to conserve and protect these unique creatures. On the Uganda: Gorilla Conservation Adventure you’ll do just that, as you trek with a veterinarian to help gather gorilla data for a health assessment once returning to the lab. This is far from the only memorable moment you’ll experience though, as this trip offers the opportunity to:
- Track tree-climbing lions, a rare breed only found in two parts of the world, with a conservationist
- Visit a local school, coffee plantation and women’s charity project
- Walk alongside chimps in the jungle and observe them in their family group just feet away
Stay in stunning luxury lodges near the three Ugandan National Parks
Have you ever witnessed a gorilla in the wild? What was it like?