Gorillas are the largest living primates in the world. Gorilla before scientific studies were known as one species with 2 subspecies. When German explorer Cap Robert Von visited the Virunga Mountains in 1902, he picked up to do scientific research on the gorillas. Studies revealed, gorillas have two species and each species has 2 subspecies. The Eastern gorillas include the mountain gorillas and eastern lowland gorillas, Western gorillas that are made of the Western lowland gorillas, and the cross river gorillas. In 1959 Dian Fossey continued with a comprehensive study on mountain gorillas.

Eastern Gorillas (Gorilla beringei) -Eastern lowland gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri)

                                                             -Mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei)

Western Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla) – Western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla)

                                                            -Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli)

Most of the travelers to Africa, flock in for mountain gorilla tracking in Uganda, Rwanda, and D.R. Congo (over 1004 individuals of these survive in these three countries). While Uganda and Rwanda have only mountain gorillas, D.R. Congo has the two subspecies of the Eastern gorillas. The western gorillas survive in the West African countries that include the Central African Republic, Gabon, Libreville, Angola, Nigeria, and Equatorial Guinea among others.

Despite them being gorillas, they have differences that are scientific, some structural, communication, and others behavioral. In this write up we look at some of the differences between the famous mountain gorillas and the lowland gorillas.


Mountain gorillas and lowland gorillas, just like their names have different habitats. The mountain gorillas survive in high altitudes about 2200-4300m while the lowland gorillas can be found in the tropical lowland forests. They prefer flat habitats and forested areas and they usually rest in cover during the day while mountain gorillas rest in the open clearings. If you have been to the zoo in Europe, or Texas, what you saw is a lowland gorilla because mountain gorillas cannot survive out of their altitudinal zone and none is in captivity.

Structure and Features

The two species are different in their shapes (slightly different). The mountain gorillas have shorter arms, larger teeth, compared to the lowland gorillas, the noses are different, and the jaws. The lowland gorillas have a short head compared to the lowland gorillas. The lowland gorillas have short fur and brownish. The mountain gorillas have long, shaggy, and black fur.

They both have a standing height of 4-6ft but mountain gorillas weigh more than lowland gorillas. Mountain gorillas can weigh from 300-485 pounds while lowland gorillas can weigh from 150 to 400 pounds. This means the mountain gorillas are large and stronger than the lowland gorillas.


Gorillas are most of the time quiet (not like their fellow chimpanzees) but they have an extensive array of vocalization. The lowland gorillas have about 22 different screams, hoots, and barks and each is for a different reaction and communicates something different. Mountain gorillas on the other hand have 25 distinct vocalizations that are recognized. They also use signs like beating the chest. When stressed, mountain gorillas emit a strong odor from glands under their arms and usually isolate to calm down.

The lowland gorillas are not widely studied like the mountain gorillas. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund is currently studying and collecting data to further understand the ranging patterns of the Eastern lowland gorillas for genetic diversity, population density, and diet among others.

You can choose to have an exceptional encounter of the two species and visit either Rwanda or Uganda for a mountain gorilla tracking safari or visit D.R. Congo where you can track either the lowland gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega national park or the mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park or both.

Rwanda Gorilla trekking