Young gorillas in Virunga national park
Young gorillas in Virunga national park- Almost each year, new baby gorillas that call Virunga national park in DR Congo home are born in different gorilla families that are habituated and wild. Virunga national park lies in the eastern part of DR Congo on the borders of Uganda and Rwanda. The national park is home to a huge population of mountain gorillas of which 8 families have been so far habituated in this park.
The national park is famous for mountain gorillas and these have found their homes in the thick tropical forests as well as slopes of Virunga volcanoes Mikeno, Nyiragongo, and Nyamuragira. The mountain gorilla families in Virunga national park are Kabirizi group, Humba group, Mapuwa group, Lulengo group, Bageni group, Munyaga group, Nyakamwe group, and Rugendo group.
Virunga national park is composed of open grassland, montane forest, and Afro-alpine vegetation cover. Most of the habituated gorilla families in Virunga national park are found on the lower levels of the park but there are times when these gorillas move to the high altitudes on the slopes of Virunga Volcanoes in the park looking for food and this is during the dry season.
Most of these mountain gorilla groups have newborn babies (infants) and these make the trekking activity more exciting. The young gorillas are more attractive with pale gray-pink skin that is sparsely covered with hair. Young gorillas are exciting because they do play a lot, smile, climb, bounce when they are 8 weeks, crawl at 9 weeks, and can move at 3 months.
The young gorillas above 34 weeks can move for a short distance around their mothers and at 7 months you will watch them climb on their mothers’ backs and ride. When you meet the young gorillas ta 3-6 years it is very hard to differentiate between a male and a female but when they reach 6-8 years, the male ones mature, they become tall and start developing adult make characteristics. At the age of 13 years, the hairs on their backs begin to turn to silver.
Young mountain gorillas stay close to their mothers and when it comes to nighttime, they sleep in the same nests with their mothers since they have less knowledge to make their own nests. The young gorillas can only stay with their father only when the mother has died, the silverback will be able to take care of the young ones. The young ones will stay with their mothers until they are ready to take care of themselves.
The young gorillas are born at the age of 8.5 months and during their early stages, they are able to hold on tightly to their mothers with a powerful grip from both their feet and hands. The mothers do assist the infant when it’s holding on to her stomach or chest. Trekking a gorilla family that has young gorillas gives you an opportunity to watch the young ones play with their siblings or other young ones of their age. When the young ones are playing, they do form a chain and walk through the forest and they can also decide to climb trees.
Reproduction in mountain gorillas is slow whereby a female mountain gorilla does give birth to a single baby after 4 years and this is why the number of mountain gorilla population is at a very low rate in Virunga national park. The reproduction rate does not only apply in Virunga national park but also in other national parks where mountain gorillas do live and these are Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and Mgahinga national park of Uganda and Volcanoes national park in Rwanda.
Mountain gorilla trekking in Virunga national park
Mountain gorilla trekking in Virunga national park is an activity done among 8 fully habituated gorilla families that are in the park. The fascinating activity starts early in the morning so travelers must wake up early in the morning and have breakfast. The driver guides will transfer them to the briefing center and from here they will learn about the rules and regulations of the trekking activity from the park wardens.
After the briefing, groups not exceeding 8 people are made, and all the treks are led by armed ranger guides. The rangers take you through different trekking trails looking for mountain gorillas, and the activity might take 2-5 hours. During the search period, the trekkers are able to spot different park animals such as bongo, topi, elephant, duiker, giant forest hog, lion, leopard, aardvark, birds, and different vegetation cover.
When the mountain gorilla family is located, the trekkers are given 1 hour to be around the apes, and in this period, the trekkers are able to learn about mountain gorilla behaviors, take photos and watch them do daily activities such as playing, climbing trees, nesting, hunting, breastfeeding and much more. Later the trekkers trek out of the jungle, get their trekking certificates, and meet their drivers to transfer them to the next destination.
How much is trekking gorillas in Virunga national park?
Virunga national park gorilla trekking permits cost $400 for foreign residents and foreign non-residents while East Africans pay $200 in the high season of June to September and December to February. In the low season from March to May and October to November, the gorilla trekking permits are sold at half the normal price.