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Mountain Gorillas

The plight of mountain gorillas was highlighted internationally by the release of the film gorillas in the mist, based on the story of American gorilla researcher and conservationist Dian Fossey, whose brutal and unsolved murder was in Parc des Volcans.

The Gorilla gorilla beringei is endangered of the three recognized races of the gorilla. Mountain gorillas range is confined to the Virunga Mountains and Bwindi forest, both of which lie on the eastern side of the Albert Rift.

They are on average bulkier than other races of gorilla weighing up to 200kg, though the heaviest individual gorilla on record is a 210kg eastern lowland gorilla measured in the Congo.

Gorillas have a primarily vegetarian diet. In the Virungas, they are known to eat 58 different plant species; in Bwindi forest, where there is greater biological diversity, they probably eat a wider variety of plants. Mountain gorillas also eat insects, with ants being particularly popular protein supplement.

Gorillas will spend most of its waking hours on the ground, but it will generally move into the trees at night when each member of the troop builds itself a temporary nest.

The gorillas have few natural enemies, with humans being at the forefront and they often live for up to fifty years in the wild, but their long-term survival is critically threatened by poaching and by deforestation of their habitat. Unlike their lowland cousins, mountain gorillas have never been successfully reared in captivity.