About Gorillas

Learn about gorillas,  highly endangered species in Africa. Not only are they endangered species, gorillas are the biggest animal species in the wild, close to human beings sharing 98% of human genes. There are approximately 175,000 gorillas in the whole world.

Upon their discovery gorillas were classified as one species, however they are now separated into two species and four sub species according to geographical location and physical characteristics.

They live in groups called a troop lead by a dominant silverback male, and are highly sociable animals, maintaining strong bonds between group members.Learn about the general information about gorillas: habitat, feeding, anatomy, reproduction, communication, distribution, evolution and all the information about gorillas.

With approximately 175,000 gorillas existing in the world. These great apes are divided into two species; the Eastern gorillas and the Western gorillas. Gorillas are the largest apes in the world and can be found in 10 countries in Africa.The four subspecies groups of gorillas include

  • the mountain gorillas
  • the cross river gorillas
  • the eastern lowland gorillas and
  • the western lowland gorillas.

Gorillas are the closest relatives to human beings sharing 98% of human genes which make them so susceptible to human diseases. The gorilla is the largest animal in the whole world with the size of up to 6 feet tall weighing 300 to 425 pounds making it the largest and bulkiest in the wild.

Gorillas have very long arms (the arms are longer than the legs), and a short, bulky body with a wide chest. Gorillas walk on their knuckles using both their legs and their long arms. They can also walk upright for shorter distances, but rarely do so. They are excellent climbers but tend not to climb trees in the wild unless constructing an elevated nest for rest and sleep. Mainly due to their weight and muscle bulk, gorillas cannot swim.

The distinctive shape of a gorilla’s head is due to the sagittal crest on top – this is much larger on males. Adult gorillas have 32 teeth, with large molars (flat teeth used for chewing food) and large canines (pointy teeth used for biting), which are especially large in the male gorillas. Although gorillas can inflict a serious bite, the large canine teeth are employed more for display and threat. Gorillas each have a unique nose print (like we have unique fingerprints).

A gorilla’s senses  of smell, taste, touch and hearing are believed to be very similar to humans. They possess colour, binocular vision with apparent near-sightedness. Gorillas’ hands operate just like ours; they have five fingers, including an opposable thumb. This is a key factor that seperates advanced primates from other animals in evolutionary terms. It allows the skilled use of tools. Gorillas have an added advantage as their feet have five toes, including an opposable big toe. Gorillas can grasp things with both their hands and their feet.
Male gorillas are much larger than the females, and are almost twice as heavy. Adult male gorillas are called silverbacks because they develop a saddle-shaped patch of silver hair on their backs. This happens when they reach maturity at about 12+ years.


Female 4.6 ft (1.4 m) 200 lb (90 kg)
Male 5.6 ft (1.7 m) 400 lb (180 kg)

The average lifespan for a gorilla is about 35 years, although they tend to live longer in captivity. In zoos and parks they can live to 50+ years.

Characteristics of Mountain Gorillas

Gorillas are very much related to humans. About 97.8 % of their DNA is scientifically similar to that of humans. Mountain Gorillas among the 4 great ape species living in African rainforests, they are the largest; a mature silverback male can weigh up to 600 pounds.

Besides the identical DNA between humans and gorillas, ecological and social research shows that both wild and habituated gorillas live and maintain their distinct social groups /families.
Gorillas in the wild, a family can have a minimum number of 2 individuals (male and female) while the highest gorilla family size can have more than 30 individuals.

You’ll find among females, juveniles and infants led by 1 Silverback which commands all activities like feeding, relaxing and sleeping and moving within a habitat range. Silverbacks normally defend particular habitat ranges and when groups meet, often fight or ignore each other.

Sometimes a single group may have more than 2 silverbacks, though they tend to be aggressive towards one. In some cases, silverbacks often fight until the strongest silverback takes control of its family. When young males mature, they often go off and create their own families.

Facts about mountain gorillas are countless, but the most important each individual gorilla has unique finger prints on its human like large hands. Gorillas also have human like senses including hearing, seeing, smelling, touching and feeling. Precisely in their nature, these apes are peaceful animals that never kill for fodder.

Unlike habituated, wild gorilla families when encountered often shy away, charge or become aggressively when threatened. Even, in the forest like Bwindi which has more than 36 gorilla families according to Uganda wildlife authority statistics, solitary males have been encountered occasionally by trackers.

In a bonded gorilla family, females often groom their young ones and show affection for one another including communicating through distinct sounds, gestures and postures like hugging.

Baby gorillas often feed and keep around a silverback because it’s their father, strength and protection in case of danger. Adult females often fold their mouth when it time for mating and stay around the silverback waiting for response.

Mountain gorillas are wild animals but are suited for habituation, a process through which wild gorillas are tracked by researchers day by day and year to year imitating their behavior such as chewing on vegetation to make them accustomed to human presence. However, the process doesn’t change the natural behavior of gorillas but it’s intended to ease tourist encounter.

Gorillas can climb up in trees but spend most of their time on ground feeding selectively choosing flesh edible plant leaves, bamboo shots, pulps, stems, tree barks, fruits and sometimes on ants and termites.  They rest for 2-3 hours a day consuming about 35 kg of vegetation.

As the night approaches, a silverback looks for a suitable place as its family gets together making nests for sleeping. Each gorilla makes its own nest except for infants who sleep with their mothers. Then the next day early morning, a silverback leads its family to a new source of flesh vegetation from which tourists often encounter them on guided trek with experienced guides and trackers.

Would you like to meet the gorillas in the wild? You can book a gorilla safari in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. On a guided gorilla safari in Africa, you can come to face to face with the endangered gorillas.

Diet and Feeding in Gorillas

Gorillas are herbivorous animals that mainly feed on fruits and leaves. They do not feed or hunt other game but at some incidents they eat small invertebrates like termites and ants.

The nature of the foods that gorillas feed on varies between gorilla species as these species live in different animals that have different kinds of vegetation/trees. However gorillas normally feed on tree vines, shoots, branches, fruits, leaves and shrubs. These eat large amounts of vegetation in order to make up for their large bodies. They spend most of the day eating.

Intelligence in Gorillas

Gorillas are intelligent animals as compared to most animals in the jungles as they have a developed brain as sometimes they make rational judgement in the way they do some things. Gorilla’s intelligence is displayed by their capability to turn natural things into tools that can make them get food and also build their shelter in an easy way.

For example, west lowland gorillas normally get branches from trees, remove the leaves and barks from them. This branch is later modified so that it can perfect fit into the hole where it would like to get the foods.

Further more in the ancient times, there were gorillas that used sticks to determine the depth of the water so that they can crossover the stream or drink some water. Recently in 2009, at buffalo Zoo, there was a west lowland gorilla that collected water in the bucket. Validating the latter incident that was seen at the Buffalo Zoo, an experiment was made at buffalo zoological gardens from 17 april 2010 to 26 june 2010; this involved three female gorillas and one male gorilla and five buckets were placed around the pool and two of the female gorillas successfully filled the buckets with water. This justified that gorillas use tools to drink water where need be.

Also gorillas in human tame have ability to comprehend simple sign language to communicate with humans. For example in mid 1970, a primatologist Francine “Penny” Patterson reported that Koko a gorilla is able to understand more than 1,000 signs of what Patterson calls “Gorilla Sign Language”. Reports stated that Koko would understand approximately 2000 words in English in addition to the signs.