Top 10 Facts About Gorillas
1. Gorillas Share 98.3 Percent of Human's Genetic Makeup
The gorilla is one of our closest living cousins, whom we share 98.3 percent of our DNA. The only cousins closer are the chimpanzee and the bonobo, which share 99 percent of our genetic makeup, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Due to the close relationship, we share a lot of characteristics with the gorilla. For one, their hands are very similar to ours, since they have a thumb-like finger, although they have a thumb-like finger on their feet as well. Due to being able to hold things, they are one of the few creatures to use tools aside from humans. They also have hairless faces and small eyes. Although they walk upright, they often use their hands in a knuckle walk to get around, since they have very long arms and short legs.
2. Gorillas Display Human Emotions
Not only do gorillas share genetic makeup with us, but they also seem to be highly intelligent. Some of this intelligence may translate into emotion. Although some scientists would argue that gorillas only appear to have human emotions, others adamantly feel that these giant apes do, in fact, experience emotions such as happiness and sadness. One reason for this belief is because they have a reaction that is similar to human laughter. When gorillas greet each other, they will show affection, even hugging one another. Dr. Charlotte Uhlenbrock shares many stories of gorillas expressing emotions, including when two gorillas hugged one another after three years apart and acted like old human friends who became reacquainted.
3. They Live In Family Groups Called a Troop
Gorillas live in a family group called a troop. These troops usually consist of five to ten members, although they may have as large as fifty or as few as just a couple of members. A Silverback is a male chosen to lead the troop. One silverback will hold his position for many years. He is responsible for making sure his family members are safe, deciding where they should sleep, as well as bringing them to new locations where fresh food is. Gorillas eat a lot, so traveling is necessary so that they do not deplete their food source.
Occasionally a young male will challenge the silverback to see if they can take its place. A show-off is very impressive as they will make loud noises while they beat their chest with their fists, bare their teeth, and eventually charge one another. They may even use scare tactics by breaking off branches and shaking them at one another.
4. Gorillas Are Not Strong Breeders
Unfortunately, they are not strong breeders, which makes it hard for them to recover from their declining status. The females become sexually mature at around seven or eight, but do not usually begin breeding until a couple of years later. The males become sexually mature at an even older age.
When a female becomes pregnant, she usually only gives birth to one baby every four to six years. Most gorillas will only have three or four young in their entire lifetime. Babies are born at only a few pounds and will be carried on the mother's chest until they are independent enough to cling to their mother's backs. Their young are often very playful and will run around and play while the adults take naps. While the adults are awake, they mostly eat.
5. There Are 4 Gorilla Subspecies
There are four subspecies of gorillas: cross river gorilla, mountain gorilla, a western lowland gorilla, and eastern lowland gorilla. All of the species live in the Congo basin, although in slightly different areas. Cross River gorillas live in the regions that are densely populated by humans since humans have encroached on their natural habitat, which has caused a significant decrease in the number of these beautiful beasts. The mountain gorilla, as the name implies, live specifically in the mountain ranges in the Congo and have much thicker fur to protect from the colder atmosphere. Western lowland gorillas live in the broadest areas of the Congo spread throughout various regions whereas the eastern lowland gorilla is the largest of all the gorillas and is the hardest to track since they live in some of the densest areas of the forest in Africa.
6. Gorillas Are the Largest Primates
Gorillas are the largest of all the primates, which includes humans. They generally weigh up to 440 pounds but have been documented as high as 485 pounds. They stand 4-6 feet tall when they are standing on two feet, but have very broad shoulders, which make them very wide. Western lowland gorillas tend to be the smallest, whereas the eastern lowland gorillas are the largest. According to Fox News, the St Louis Zoo had a gorilla named Phil that weighed 860 pounds and just under six feet, which is the most massive recorded gorilla as of 2014.
7. Gorillas Are Critically Endangered
All four subspecies of gorillas are critically endangered, which means that they are at serious risk of becoming extinct. The only classification lower, aside from extinct, is extinct in the wild. There are only 200-300 cross river gorillas and 880 mountain gorillas in the wild. The population for both the western and eastern lowland gorillas is unknown.
Although they do not have any known predators, their numbers continue to decline due to habitat destruction and being hunted illegally for bushmeat by humans.
8. They Are Considered Gentle Giants
Despite such movies as King Kong, these primates are not nearly as fierce as their appearance portrays. Gorillas are very gentle and live as family units. They are plant-eating. Despite their peaceful nature, humans still need to be careful around them, as they are much much stronger than humans and could endanger a person's life if the gorilla felt threatened.
They are especially gentle with their young. Even the silverback, who is the head of the troop, is gentle with the babies when correcting them. They are very affectionate, loving parents.
9. They Act As Forest Regulators
These apes live in the rainforest as all other great apes do except for humans. The healthier the gorilla population, the more robust the rainforest is in that area. They not only eat much of its foliage, but its scat acts as a very rich fertilizer for the forest floor. Areas where they live, plant life, grows much quicker than in other areas.
10. Gorillas Eat Up To 40 Pounds of Food a Day
Gorillas love to eat and do so almost all day long. Since the bulk of their diet is plants, they require a large amount of food to maintain their sizeable muscular physique. They will eat up to forty pounds in one day, which is equal to eighteen kilograms of food. They have powerful jaws and can eat even the sturdiest stems, but also eat leaves, fruits, seeds, roots, as well as ants and termites. Their cousins, the chimpanzee, also eat termites and are known to use tools to get the termites. Gorillas prefer a gruffer approach and will smash a termite mound to get to the termites inside.
Although gorillas do not have any known predators, their population continues to decline because of encroachment by humans. We need to protect this species from extinction.
- "Gorilla." San Diego Zoo Global Animals and Plants. Accessed September 12, 2018. https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/gorilla.
- “Gorilla.” WWF, World Wildlife Fund, www.worldwildlife.org/species/gorilla.
- Uhlenbroek, Dr Charlotte. "The Hug That Says They're Just like Us: As Two Gorilla Brothers Greet Each Other like Old Friends, a Zoologist Says They Share Almost EVERY Human Emotion." Daily Mail Online. August 17, 2012. Accessed September 13, 2018. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2189591/The-hug-says-theyre-just-like-As-gorilla-brothers-greet-like-old-friends-zoologist-says-share-EVERY-human-emotion.html.
Questions & Answers
Are baby gorillas safe?
I strongly believe that all animals are first and foremost animals; therefore, their actions and behaviors are unpredictable. Only trained professionals should ever try to work with any wild animal, even their young.
Has a gorilla ever eaten a human?
Gorillas do not eat humans, but some have accidentally killed humans. In all documented cases, the gorilla was provoked to some degree before it attacked. None ended up eating the human after the human died.
Why are gorillas endangered?
The main reason is the loss of their natural habitat, although previously it did fall victim to poaching, disease, and war. Habitat loss is mostly due to people using the land for either farming or housing, encroaching on their natural habitat. Fortunately, in recent years, poaching has become less of a problem.
© 2018 Angela Michelle Schultz