The two mountain populations, one in the Virunga Volcanoes area on the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda and the other in the Bwindi National Park in Uganda, belong to the Eastern group, which changes their classification to Gorilla Beringei Beringei. After chimpanzees, gorillas are our closest relatives and share about 97.7% of our DNA. Mountain gorillas are the largest living primates, an adult male weighing up to 180 kilograms (400 pounds), with an arm span of about two meters (seven feet). They have longer, thicker fur than Lowland gorillas and a slightly different nose shape among other skeletal differences.
Mountain gorillas do not survive in captivity, which is why they are not seen in zoos. Gorilla Trekking through the misty forests requires patience and stamina, often walking for hours in the mud and the wet. Finally meeting them in the undergrowth is an inspiring moment. Quietly chewing away at their vegetarian delicacies, they seem like a marooned human family. The tender grooming and firm disciplining of their offspring seems all too familiar. The gorilla family cast a wary glance at the sudden human intrusion into their private world, but is comforted by the clucking made by the trackers. When provoked, the noisy but harmless silverback grunts, screeches, bares his fangs and beats his chest, before slithering off with attendant females, offspring and other mature males.
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History of the Mountain Gorilla
"Between the 23th and 24th October  I passed a wonderful primeval forest, where the natives claim a big humanlike ape lives." Thus, wrote Robert von Beringe in his report on the expedition from Bukoba on the shores of Lake Victoria to Lake Edward, skirting the north west edge of today’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Three years later on the 17th October 1902, during a diplomatic visit to the King of Rwanda and the German outposts, on the slopes of the Sabinyo Volcano he was the first white man to see a troup of mountain gorillas and shot two: the photographs and remains of one demonstrated the presence of gorillas beyond West Africa and were identified as Gorilla Gorilla Berengei by the Berlin Natural Science Museum.
Robert von Beringe (1865 - 1940), who joined as a volunteer in 1894 and was promoted to Captain in 1899, was part of the small elite of white professional officers of the German East Africa Protectorate Force, created in 1891. Germany had started the penetration of Tanzania in the mid 1880’s and consolidated its position in the 1890’s, pushing inland along the caravan routes. In 1896 the German had set up a military station in Usumbura (Bujumbura), in charge of both Burundi and Rwanda, of which Beringe was the ‘Resident’ from August 1902 to February 1904.
His expeditions were endeavouring to establish German ascendancy over the local rulers and territorial claims vis-à-vis the Belgians, pushing east from Coingo. In addition, officers like Beringe were building on the geographical discoveries of the explorers who first opened this area - mainly the Austrian Oskar Baumann (1864 - 1899) who first entered Rwanda in 1892 and the German Gustav Adolf von Götzen (1966 - 1910) who discovered Lake Kivu in 1894. In particular, Beringe is credited for contributing to the detailed mapping out of the volcanoes region and especially for discovering Lake Bunyonyi in 1899. These officers were also encouraged by the Natural Science Museum’s authorities to contribute to their collections: Beringe for instance also sent to the Museum a collection of coleoptera probably from south east Tanzania in 1987.
Sources and Further reading