Silverback Gorilla Facts

Silverback gorillas are a magnificent sight in the wild and for anyone who has been lucky enough to go gorilla trekking in Uganda or Rwanda a chance to photograph the largest and strongest primate in the world is top of their wildlife travel bucketlist. Uganda wildlife is rich and varied but almost all visitors to this beautiful country choose to take a gorilla safari in the west of the country, which borders the Congo and Rwanda. This is the kingdom of the Silverback Gorilla and it is here where he will stand or fall doing his duty to protect the gorilla family. Without him, the gorilla family are at the mercy of rogue silverbacks who may kill the babies of the female gorillas as part of the process of establishing dominance and ensuring it is their genetics which passes on to the next generation.

Silverback Gorilla, size and strength

Male silerback gorillas stand and impressive 2 metres (6 foot plus) high and can weigh as much as 180 kg (400 lbs). Despite their intimidating appearence, silverbacks rarely threaten humans unless they feel the gorilla family is under threat. When we have gone gorilla trekking in Uganda, we have generally observed very relaxed male gorillas with any tension related to the younger playful gorilla youngsters approaching too close to the human visitors. It is estimated that the male silverback is around 10 times stronger than an average human male, but really there is no scientific evidence to support these claims.

Silverback Gorilla feeding habits

It is the male silverback who decides the daily routine for the entire gorilla family; when and where they are going to eat, rest and sleep. Gorillas are herbivores and their major food sources are shoots, roots, vines, leaves and fruits. Considering their size they are remarkably delicate eaters, with a careful selection of a favourite plant and sometimes gentle washing in some nearby water to wash away the dirt.

Silverback Gorillas distribution and conservation status

Despite recent success in increasing the number of Mountain Gorillas in the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda – the entire world population of wild mountain gorillas is located within these 3 countries – to an estimated population of 880, there are still many threats to their future and they are still regarded as critically endangered and included on the IUCN Red List of endangered species. Threats to the future of silverback gorillas and their families include becoming entangles in snares and traps set for other wildlife, habitat lost due to encroachment by farmers and transmission of diseases such as Ebola. Anyone who has gone gorilla trekking in Uganda will be aware of how small the remaining forest fragments are and that also the gorilla families are often found eating in farmers fields – for which the farmers are compensated in some of the national parks.

Where to go Gorilla trekking and see Silverbacks in Uganda

In recent years more and more gorilla families have been habituated by scientists and visitors to Uganda now have several interesting locations to take a gorilla safari and to photogaph and observe a male silverback gorilla. Wildlife Trails offer gorilla trekking holidays to Bwindi (Buhoma) and one of our favourite destinations Nukuringo; where you can also undertake a beautiful forest walk from Bwindi to the Nteko ridge where you accommodation is located, with spectacular views of the 8 volcanoes.