Rainforest and gorillas

Big excited roars to you all. Why are we excited, you may ask?

It is because this week, we visited some very special friends of ours…

Do you want to know who they were?

Well…our friends live high up in the hills in Uganda and we had to travel past some beautiful lakes to get there. But our friends don’t live in a lake…. They live even higher up in the mountains…

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In fact, they live in an area that has a string of very tall Volcanoes. There are eight volcanoes known as the Virunga Volcanoes and they are in an area between Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. These spectacular mountains are the last place in the world that our friends live in.

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Luckily the volcanoes are dormant… That means they are sleeping so are safe to walk around.

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Our friends lived past the volcanoes and in the deep, thick, Rainforest. We had to squeeze our way past all the plants. Everything was very wet as it rains a lot in these hills. When we got into the rainforest we got to meet our friends. This rainforest is the last place on earth where our friends live…

Would you like to meet them? Can you guess who they are?

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Only about 630 of these individuals remain.

Yes they are our friends…the mountain gorillas!

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We met Mr Silverback first. He is the boss of the family. He is called a Silverback because the hair on his back turns grey to show everyone that he is the boss.

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Gorillas live in family groups. Family groups are close-knit and may have up to 30 members, but even if smaller, the group usually consists of at least one older male, one or more females and a selection of babies and children.

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They can grow up to 6ft tall which is nearly 190cm! Wow. They are also very heavy… Sometimes between 300 and 425 pounds. Very heavy. The males are often twice the size of the females.

Although they are very big and strong, gorillas are very peaceful animals and they don’t fight. Each person has a role in the group and they respect that. They don’t fight to be the leader but they do lots of dances and actions to show their emotions…. This saves them fighting and perhaps hurting themselves.

Some of the things they do to avoid fighting are:

screaming, grab leaves and stuffing them in their mouths, stand tall on their back legs, tearing up and throwing plants, drumming on their chest with their hands or fists, stamping their feet, hitting the ground with the palms of their hands and galloping in a mock attack on all fours.

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Gorillas look fierce but they don’t attack other animals because they are vegetarian. They eat lots of leaves but their favourites are wild celery, bamboo, thistles, stinging nettles, bedstraw and certain fruit. They don’t need to drink water as they get enough water from these plants!

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Gorillas spend all day walking around their home area, it is huge…about 10 to 15 square miles. They rest and feed all day. Because gorillas move around a lot they have to build a new home or nest each day just before it goes dark. They make them by bending over trees and sitting on the leaves. The rainforest is very wet and damp so it was fun seeing them make a comfy nest to sleep in.

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Baby gorillas are weak and tiny, weighing in at about 4 pounds. After 3 or 4 months, the gorilla baby can sit upright and can stand with support soon after. One baby spent a long time bouncing on a tree branch, Dino wanted to join him and play but when you see animals you should keep quiet and not interrupt them.

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The only animals that can threaten the huge gorillas are leopards, crocodiles and humans!
Sometimes gorillas get caught in traps that have been set to catch antelope. This made us sad. Also, lots of people are cutting down the rainforest so they can grow crops and vegetables. This means the gorillas have not as many places to live.

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Gorillas can live up to 53 years in a zoo and in the rainforest they can live to 45 years old. The Silverback chief We met was 37years old.

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We were a bit scared being next to such huge animals. But they are very friendly. Sometimes they show they are boss and run at visitors….but they are just acting and you have to stay still and crouch down. Also, if you are ill you are not allowed to visit the gorillas. This is because they are so closely related to humans that flu, coughs and colds can be passed from humans to the gorillas making them very sick.

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This is the silverbacks Fist. It is huge.

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We loved visiting the mountain gorillas but we felt sad that there are only 630 of them left on the whole planet! That’s not a lot! So we need to look after our friends!

It is best to look after animals in the wild but sometimes they need a bit more help. Zoos can help look after animals. It is called conservation.
London Zoo have some lowland gorillas. They are a relative of the mountain gorillas… and London Zoo are helping to conserve our amazing friends.
Visit their website to learn more about gorillas…
www.zsl.org

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