Mountain gorillas are playful and emotional. They are also caring, affectionate and protective. Despite their peaceful nature, they can be hostile and violent when provoked.
Mountain gorillas belong to close-knit families. A family is a fundamental unit in their societies. The head of a gorilla family is a silverback who demonstrates exemplary leadership traits. Like us, they are social animals bound by a strong sense of belonging.
Their gestation period is close to nine months. Mothers breastfeed their children, nurture them and communicate to them in a way we can relate to. Stages of their life cycle are similar to ours although their life expectancy is lower.
Gorillas make distinct utterances to communicate. They also produce a variety of sounds to express emotions. They laugh, chuckle, cry and scream. Like us, they mourn and grieve when they lose their beloved ones. For a long time, researchers and casual observers have been consistent in their revelation of behavioral comparisons between gorilla species and homo sapiens.
In most cases, gorillas resolve their differences peacefully. When diplomacy fails, they resort to throwing punches at each other while flexing their broad chests and huge shoulders. Their hands look like ours, with five fingers. When they fight, they use their fists like boxers.
Similarities between us and gorillas should not be surprising bearing in mind that we share about 98% of our DNA with them. Their genetic composition is identical to ours, with the nuclear DNA being the only exception.
Gorillas can contract sinusitis, influenza, pneumonia and other human diseases. At the Volcanoes National Park, the interaction between tourists and gorillas is limited in order to protect the latter from human diseases. Social distance between tourists and gorillas was observed even before the outbreak of Covid- 19. We share diseases too.
We have a lot in common with these great apes residing in the Virunga Massif. We give their babies our names and throw a big party when we do so. Yes, we share names too.
The author is an adventurer on a tour of all 30 districts and 416 sectors of Rwanda. Follow his awe-inspiring journey on Twitter @GeoExposure.