Mountain Gorilla | African Wildlife Foundation

Mountain gorillas are the largest living primates

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Mountain Gorilla

Conservation Status:

Critically Endangered

  • Less than 900 remain today
  • Live in 4 national parks
  • Lifespan of 40-50 years

Quick Facts

Scientific name

Gorilla beringei beringei


Males: Up to 400 lbs.
Females: 215 lbs


Males: up to 6-ft. tall
Females: up to 5-ft. tall

Life span

40 to 50 years


Dense forest, rain forest




About 8.5 months


Predominately humans, occasionally leopards


Where do mountain gorillas live?

The world’s remaining mountain gorillas live in three countries spanning four national parks—Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Volcanoes National Park, and Virunga National Park. 

Tags: DRC, Rwanda, Uganda, Virunga, West/Central Africa View Africa | Habitat

Physical Characteristics

What are mountain gorillas?

As one of the great apes, mountain gorillas are the largest of the living primates. They have muscular arms, a massive chest, and broad hands and feet. Their thick black hair helps insulate them from cold weather.

Behavior & Diet

The silverback protects what matters most.

Mountain gorillas live in groups of two to 40 led by the silverback, a dominant male that is the chief leader and protector. Almost 10 times stronger than the biggest American football players, a silverback protects its group from attacks by humans, leopards, or other gorillas—even if it means sacrificing his own life.

Mountain gorilla infants develop twice as fast as humans.

The female mountain gorilla usually gives birth when she turns 10 and has offspring every four or more years. Newborns are weak and weigh only about 4 pounds. Their first movements are awkward, like a human infant, but they develop almost twice as fast. Infants nurse and are gradually weaned after they turn 3 years old, when they are more independent.

Mountain gorillas are primarily herbivores.

Even though they eat like football players, their diet is made up of more than 100 different species of plants. And, they rarely need to drink since they get most of their water from those plants.


  • One Tough Little Gorilla
  • Gorilla Climbing
  • Mountain Gorilla Craig R. Sholley
  • Mountain gorilla Craig R. Sholley
  • Mountain Gorilla IGCP
  • Mountain Gorilla Craig R Sholley
  • Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge Craig R. Sholley
  • Bwindi Census Anna Behm Masozera IGCP
  • Bwindi Census Anna Behm Masozera IGCP

Humans are pushing the mountain gorillas out of the wild and into extinction.

A census in 2011 recorded fewer than 900 mountain gorillas left in the wild. For mountain gorillas, their biggest threats come from deforestation and the region’s growing population.

The forest where mountain gorillas live is fertile and rich in biodiversity. This has made it one of the most populated regions in Africa, with 85% of the population making its living by growing food on the land. As people move closer to where gorillas live, they also bring the risk of spreading human diseases to gorillas such as the flu, pneumonia, and even ebola.

A future marred by conflict.

War in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has resulted in more than four million lives lost over the past 14 years. The mountain gorillas are caught in the middle of this social and economic crisis.

The locals depend on the natural resources and wildlife-based tourism for their welfare. So, the future of mountain gorillas will be closely linked with the peace and prosperity through the land.


Our solutions to saving the mountain gorillas from extinction:

  • Work with partners.

    At African Wildlife Foundation, we’re working with the conservation efforts initiated by the International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP). And together with Fauna & Flora International and World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature, we’re helping the countries of DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda work together to protect and conserve the area and ensure the gorilla population will endure.

    This coalition has helped the nearly extinct mountain gorilla population grow by more than 15%.

  • Equip staff.

    We are also equipping park staff, including wardens and rangers, with the technology they need to monitor the park and help protect these animals from threats.

  • Work with locals.

    IGCP/AWF works with locals to help benefit the gorillas and the community. For example, one of our public-private partnerships has designed and constructed community-owned tourist lodges. These lodges benefit the local people who share their backyard with gorillas by generating income through tourism. It’s efforts like these that will continue to help develop livelihood strategies that complement conservation.


Will you show the mountain gorilla your support?

With your support, we can continue to conserve this critically endangered ape population by working with rangers in Virunga and engaging communities in conservation tourism. Donate today to ensure that the survival of the mountain gorilla for future generations.

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    International tourism put to work for mountain gorillas

    Mountain gorillas are in danger of extinction.

    In the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda, tourists pay top dollar for the privilege of tracking mountain gorillas. Mountain...

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  • Mountain Gorilla Rangers
    Gorillas face peril

    Fewer than 900 mountain gorillas exist today.

    Mountain gorillas remain exceedingly endangered and live in only one area—the Virunga Heartland. This landscape spans...

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  • Student Gorilla Trek
    Facilitating conservation education through interaction with wildlife

    Wildlife permits are too expensive for native Rwandans. 

    Despite living so close to the magnificent mountain gorilla, many Rwandans lack the ability to fully engage...

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  • Bwindi Mountain Gorilla Census
    Cataloging the critically endangered mountain gorilla

    Accurate population numbers are needed for gorilla conservation. 

    The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda is home to approximately half of the world’s...

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  • Uganda Tourism for Biodiversity
    Improving tourism and biodiversity across the country

    Uganda has a wide range of tourism assets. 

    Uganda boasts a wealth of biodiversity that could easily be used for tourism purposes. Uganda’s economy today relies...

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