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Science

How Close Are Gorillas Related to Humans

Formerly, Human beings were separated and put in their own taxonomic family known as the hominidae while the apes were normally put under the pongidae. This separation was mainly based on certain anatomical specialization, mainly the highly developed human brain and the unique locomotion. More recently, most experts have concluded that this view is out of date.

According to their research, the chimpanzees are the closest relatives of humans, the next in line are the gorillas. The orangutans are only remotely related to the other species.The genetic material of apes is identical to that of humans to a very large degree. Differences are especially small in the nuclear DNA. Although chimpanzees and bonobos are the closest relatives of humans, gorillas resemble us more in some respects as the account below will labor to elucidate;

The gorillas’ hands and feet resemble the human ones more than those of other apes. Gorillas spend more time on the ground than other apes. Therefore their feet are more suited to walking. This is especially true for the mountain gorillas.

Male gorilla can reach 1.7 m on average as far as height is concerned. Western gorillas are the shortest subspecies with an average height of less than 1.7 m.This is totally in resemblance to the pygmies whose height measures to a tune of 1.5m.Male western gorillas have a mean weight of 140-160 kg, male mountain gorillas 150-160 kg just like the weight of a very fat human being.

At an age of 35 or more, gorillas show distinct signs of age. Old mountain gorillas often suffer from arthritis, which mainly damages the bones in their hands and feet. They also suffer from the loss of teeth as a consequence of periodontitis, so that they have a problem with feeding. It takes them longer to feed and to travel than the other group members. Gorilla groups adjust their activities accordingly and look after the aged members, in a similar way as they treat sick individuals. Only when death is imminent, the old animals are sometimes abandoned or they retreat on their own accord. This is exactly commensurate to the human way of life after aging. They lose their teeth, develop grey hair as well as being very tired and worn out.

To date, no research has been conducted into how strong gorillas are compared to humans. Comparisons cannot be made very easily. Some people say that a silverback male is ten times stronger than a man while others claim a silverback is 27 times stronger. However, much as they are very strong, their strength is only compared to that of a human being. A gorilla male probably looks much stronger than he actually is, as he doesn’t have that much more muscle tissue than humans. Even so it is very difficult to bring gorillas under control when they are aggressive or when they are panicking. Even a four-year-old gorilla is difficult for a single person to control.

Of all primates, humans have the heaviest brain by far, averaging 1,250 g. Second comes the gorilla with a brain weight of approximately 500 g. However, brain size alone is not a reliable indicator of the animal’s mental abilities. If the relationship between brain and body weight is considered, the gorilla comes last in a comparison with the other apes and humans. Compared to chimpanzees, gorillas are calm, reserved and patient. They are less adaptable and curious than chimpanzees and they don’t show the same inclination to imitate. These two ape species have completely different characters – and that is why it is not easy to compare their intelligence.

Apes cannot learn a language in the human sense. Therefore some researchers have tried to teach them sign language. The first gorilla to receive language training was Koko. She was born in San Francisco Zoo in 1971. When she was 6 months old, Francine Patterson started to care for her and to teach her sign language. After only 2 weeks, Koko used two signs: those for ‘eating’ and ‘drinking’. After 10 years she had a good command of 500 signs and she had correctly used 1,000 signs at least once. She learnt the signs by imitation and by having her hands moved into the right position by her teacher.

According to research to date, free-ranging gorillas use tools very rarely – in contrast to chimpanzees. As there is always a surplus of food plants, there is no need to use tools. However, they are certainly capable of making tools. They use sticks to probe the depth of the water. A young gorilla male in a zoo was observed to break up a rock and to use its sharp edge to scrape off bark from a branch in order to eat it. In contrast to other ape species that often work with their mouths; gorillas use only their hands to manipulate objects. For fine movements they use either their index finger or index finger and thumb by positioning the thumb opposite the index finger. Doing this, they use their hands almost exactly like humans.

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Blog

Guide to Gorilla Trekking in Africa

Looking for a gorilla safari in Uganda? Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga National Park offers travelers with an amazing opportunity to see the endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda.

The ideal option for value and almost guaranteed sightings is Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, the mist-capped ancient rain forest hosting nearly half of the total remaining population of the endangered mountain gorillas. Bwindi Forest has nine habituated gorilla groups that can be visited by tourists located within four main sectors of the forest. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has only one habituated gorilla group open for gorilla tracking.

Book Park Permits First:

There are only Only 80 permits that are granted to visitors interested in gorilla trekking per day in both Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga National Park. In every group, only 8 visitors are allowed to visit the gorillas.

Where to Stay

There are several safari lodges and campsites that are ideally located near the entry points within various sectors of the park. This means that you can choose a lodge after only making a booking for the gorilla permit. Make sure your outfitter books the lodge closest to the entry point noted on your permit.

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Experiences

Honeymoon Safari with the Gorillas in Africa

There is nothing more exciting than taking a gorilla trek during your honeymoon or anniversary. Many people always look out for something new to do during their holiday. After consulting our Africa safari expert, we were recommended to take a safari through Eastern Africa. We later found out that tracking the endangered mountain gorillas on our honey moon was the most exciting adventure.

Planning a Honeymoon Trip

Many people who have just married get confused when deciding on where to spend their honey moon! From choosing the right destination to choosing which adventure activity to be included in your holiday is quite confusing. It’s very important to spend your honey in a place you’ve never been. It is also advisable to plan your honeymoon together with your partner well in advance! If you are like me and would like to spend this time in Africa, you also need to work out your travel plans well in advance with a reliable tour operator or safari expert. You must know that your honey moon is such a special moment in life very difficult to forget, so we are all much concerned to plan it in a special way and enjoyable.

With our travel planner, we were given various options to choose from. We were give a choice to include gorilla trekking in Uganda on a 12 Days Safari that included Kenya & Rwanda. Though most people think leisurely activities like game viewing are as absolutely the best things to do, we looked at having a more active holiday! That’s why we included gorilla trekking, a more active adventure so that we can have what we regarded as the best honey moon safari! Indeed East Africa as a destination offers one the best safaris in Africa with very many incredible attractions that can be included in an itinerary.

Gorilla Trekking

Spending your honey moon with the gorillas in the Bwindi impenetrable national park in the south western part of Uganda and or Volcanoes national park in Rwanda (north western part of Rwanda) is a memorable lifetime experience! It is the best thing to do on such a great day in your life. These two nations are a home to the endangered mountain gorillas – only 900 mountain gorillas are left in the world! These great apes are found in only Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Spending some time with these gorilla species deep in the forest is truly rewarding. We used a tour operator to organize everything – booking gorilla permits, organizing transport and also the accommodation part of your safari. There are many other adventures in Uganda or Rwanda! You can include other adventures to make sure that something special is organized for you! It is also advisable to check out the given lodges for your overnight stay that have been included in your holiday. This is always a surprise to spice up your stay in Uganda or Rwanda.

Gorillas are fabulous fan to watch in their natural habitat as tracking involves moving deep into the forest with a ranger guide in a group of other eight members who are allowed to track these giants in each gorilla group, trekking also involves having an encounter with other forest dwellers like primates species, birds of different species, plant and butterfly species, all these makes the trek very interesting and the ranger guide will be there to give you all the necessary information on any forest species you meet on the way during the search, and ounce these apes are met you are strictly allowed one hour while with these giants.

On your honey still you can mix the love of gorillas with other wildlife as from Bwindi impenetrable national park to queen Elizabeth national is just about 3-4 hours’ drive as you will be fortunate to meet the rare tree climbing lions in the Ishasha sector of the park, this is amazing and it will make your honey moon safari more amazing, other animals that you will come across include elephant, buffaloes, antelope species among others. However much, trekking with the gorillas of Uganda or Rwanda the gorilla tracking experience on such a great day in life remains the same. For any honeymoon safari including gorillas, we take the lead. Book with us any gorilla safari we shall give you the best.

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Guides

Gorilla Trekking on Budget

Have less money but you would like to go on a gorilla trekking safari in Africa? Here is a guide to planning a budget gorilla trek in Uganda, Rwanda or DR Congo.

Full of amazing life lasting memories and natural attractiveness, gorilla trekking in Africa is ultimate adventure but isn’t always easy to arrange on budget. The adventure is also taken as one of the most expensive in the world but if you make a right choices of the trek, travel in right times and use right accommodations, it won’t be. If you dream of someday visiting Africa on a budget gorilla trekking tour, you don’t have to be a millionaire but just work it out right with smart gorilla trip planners and experts and your dream will come true.

Gorilla Permits

The Gorilla permit is always the main core of the trek. The cheapest gorilla permits are for Bwindi forest and Mgahinga national park in Uganda and Virunga National Park for Congo that range from $450 USD to $600 USD. However, it’s very easy to get a quick bus ticket to the gorilla park in Uganda and also arrange multiple rides to other attractions you will be interested in  if backpacking unlike in other. Depending on how many destinations you want to visit, a self drive car hire can work best than a private tailor made tour. But the other side is that Rwanda gorilla permits look pricy has the most short gorilla treks ever. Being short makes it cheap and affordable for those interested in Budget gorilla trekking tours.

Where to Stay

For Budget accommodations and hostels look no further than Uganda and Rwanda as long as you time your trip. Hotel rates vary but range between $5 USD- $15 USD per night a budget that can’t break your bank. One of the benefits of using hostels and budget accommodation is that you save as you enjoy because most them offer great services beyond price.

The list of good hostels in Rwanda and Uganda include, Kampala backpackers hostel, Bwindi backpackers lodge, fat cats hostel, Golden monkey hostel, Buhoma rest camp, Bwindi view bandas, gorilla friendly campsite, Youth hostel Rwanda, Kinigi guest house etc.

What Trips to Take

The most done budget gorilla treks are the

  • 3 days gorilla trekking tour
  • 2 days gorilla trekking tour Rwanda
  • 1 day gorilla trek Rwanda, and a
  • 5 day gorilla trekking tour in Rwanda & Uganda

Choosing one of the above trips is an assurance that you will spend less and experience more. Consider in mind that each trip is cheap but the experience is same of meeting gorillas in their home. Many gorillas’ families have been habituated and available for tourists daily provided one has a gorilla gate pass to see them.

Mornings for the trek are too exciting and ready for since it’s a dream come true in life on a life changing Africa holiday. Treks are manageable in both seasons despite the few rains that usually fall in months of April, May and November. But this can’t stop you from booking a gorilla trekking tour in  April, May or November because there are chances of tracking  at only $450 USD since Uganda  uses these months to promote gorilla travel. However, Uganda gorilla tours are the most cheapest since permits cost less than the usual price.

Food & Drinks

If you love eats, cheap ones are everywhere and you have variety to taste including local dishes but make sure you eat and clean restaurants to prevent health hygiene problems. Drinks and eats in restaurants cost between $5-$10 dollars and some run promotions on weekends especially Saturday and Sunday. Soft drinks like sodas, wines, beers make a perfect cool off especially on a hot day. However, every gorilla tour  include many of the safari highlights ,such as the Uganda Equator, Batwa people, Golden monkey trek, Ibywachu cultural village, Dian Fossey tomb, Kigali city, Kampala city, and many more.

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Blog

Rewards from Gorilla Trekking in Africa

Gorilla trekking is one of the best wildlife safari experiences in the world. To many wildlife lovers, gorilla trekking is on top on their bucket list! A large number of travelers travel to East and Central Africa majorly to see the gorillas – meeting gorillas in their natural habitat is a life changing event!

Top Destinations

There are a few destinations where travelers can go gorilla trekking in Africa.

In Africa, you can do gorilla trekking in Nigeria, Gabon, Congo Brazzaville, Central African republic among others.

Some people believe that dying before encountering gorillas is like treason case.

The Virunga Region

It is noted by many travelers that enjoy gorilla safaris to the Virunga region is the best option among all!!

The Virunga Region combines Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park and Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park.  Gorilla trekking is Virunga Region rewards the trekkers with wonderful view of the Virunga Mountains which include Karisoke Volcano, Karisimbi Volcano, Mikeno Volcano, Nyiragongo Volcano, Nyamuragira Volcano, Gahinga Volcano among others.

Below are the benefits/ skills obtained from Gorilla trekking:

The exercise done or the walk to meet gorillas, reward trekkers physical fitness .The trek involves moving through slippery trails, crossing rivers, climb hills among others.

Each gorilla group is visited by the maximum of eight people under the guidance of ranger guides. There is a sense of team work created – the group work together for the common goal of meeting Gorillas.

Trekkers obtain skills of photographing – it is a big mistake to trek gorillas without a camera, this is a life time event and you need to return back home with evidences of the exercise/ experience.  As you take many photos of Gorillas, you gain more skills on how to take clear photos.

Climbing hills and sloping into valleys while trekking Gorillas is an initial practice for serious mountaineering. The exercise prepares you for future mountain climbing exercise.

Trekkers gain techniques of answering questions – rangers are readily available to answer all the questions asked by trekkers. The more questions you ask, the more knowledgeable you become and the more questioning skills you gain.

Trekkers gain observation skills – as you look at the gorilla critically, you slowly learn how to observe things and make reasonable analysis.

As you grasp information about gorillas (information given by ranger guides) – you learn more about their behaviors, feeding habits, how they sleep, how they defend them selves among others. The information can be used by bloggers to promote their websites hence promoting business.

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News

The Bushmeat Crisis and Conservation

One of the main threats to gorillas is hunting for their meat or accidental entrapment in snares set for other species. While the YoG strongly opposes any such activities in relation to gorillas and other endangered species, there is also a traditional component to the hunting of forest animals.

Wildlife in tropical forests is a main source of livelihoods, and the well-being of forest dependent communities is closely linked to its availability. The bushmeat crisis, resulting from the current unsustainable extraction rates of wildlife from forests, therefore reminds us of humankind’s dependence on biodiversity. The disappearance of wildlife from our forests is also a serious threat to the cultural and spiritual identity of many indigenous and local communities and other forest dependent communities.

This CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity) Technical Series publication (2008) synthesizes existing knowledge on this complex topic, and suggests some policy options to make the use of wild fauna more sustainable. Interactions with other sectors, in particular forestry, agriculture, and fisheries, are demonstrated.

To the CBD Bushmeat Technical Series (Pdf, 6 Mb, English)

Additional Information: Pursuant to Decision IX/5 of the COP, which urged Parties to address, as a matter of priority, the unregulated and unsustainable hunting and trade of bushmeat, and their impact on non-target species, the Secretariat of the CBD is facilitating a thematic workshop on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Bushmeat, which will be held on the margins of the World Forestry Congress (WFC), 18-23 October 2009, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Nominated experts are tentatively scheduled to meet for three days prior to the WFC, followed by a High Level Panel Discussion at the WFC showcasing the results of the workshop. More details of the bushmeat workshop will be made available on the CBD website (http://www.cbd.int/meetings/) in due course.

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News

New Results Raise Hopes for Effective Ebola Treatment

A report published on May 28 in the scientific journal The Lancet reports on the development of a potential new drug to treat the extremely lethal Ebola hemorrhagic fever, which endangers the lives of people and animals and is one of the main threats to gorillas, especially the Western Lowland subspecies. A team at Boston University has used an experimental drug to protect monkeys from the most lethal strain of Ebola.

“We were stunned,” the team leader said. “I’ve been working with this virus for my whole career — 23 or 24 years — and we’ve had some mild successes where maybe we could go up to 50 percent protection, but I was really shocked that we got complete protection.”

Though not fully applicable to real-life scenarios, these results may hold the key to further developments, aimed at protecting people and gorillas. To read the whole article, click here.

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News

Guy Williams Named Regional Ambassador for Australia

Guy Williams is an Australian ecologist, primate conservationist and professional sustainability consultant. Primates have always been the driving passion in Guy William’s conservation work. It has just so happened that of late he has exchanged his forest habitat for the urban jungle.

Guy Williams, YoG Regional Ambassador Australia Guy has worked in primate conservation in a range of roles for the past decade, in many regions of the world. His academic research took him to North India, to understand the impact of a changing climate and human-induced pressures on the behaviour and survival of the North Indian langur (Presbytis entellus). Guy’s recent primate conservation efforts have lead him to North India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia, where he developed community models of wildlife education and resource conservation that consider the needs of both human and non-human primates.

Despite continuing to support primate conservation in both research and policy development, Guy’s role with Australia based tda environmental consulting have seen him take the primate conservation challenge to the offices of business and the hallways of government in an attempt to make species conservation and environmental preservation a focus of all sustainability frameworks. His reputation in the global sustainability community and his government networks enable Guy to foster and encourage gorilla education throughout a diversity of local and regional communities.

It is his pioneering work in the development of the integrated community, conservation and carbon project concept, currently being applied in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea that offers the greatest opportunity for gorilla conservation. The Triple C development framework enables businesses to invest sustainably in forest conservation, while ensuring local community governance is strengthened, livelihoods are maintained and the tropical forests and the primates that call these forests home is preserved.

Guy said: “There is significant potential in educating communities and businesses about how their purchasing and spending decisions can be both sustainable, satisfying and also contribute directly to the survival of the world’s tropical forests and the amazing diversity of plants and animals that occupy them.”

Guy will serve as Regional Ambassador Australia for the Year of the Gorilla, working closely with the YoG partners as well as a group of conservation organizations, businesses, zoological and educational institutions and regional heads of government to develop a regional program to support gorilla conservation.

The Australian Year of the Gorilla program will seek to raise funds for selected projects, thereby helping on-the-ground gorilla conservation and the development of affected human populations where help is needed most and resources can be used most efficiently. The Australian program will lobby businesses, government and the wider community to commit to ensuring the conservation and preservation of these amazing great apes.