gorilla It is the largest primate on the planet. Populations have decreased in recent decades, therefore, they are in danger of extinction.

It is one of the closest living relatives to humans, sharing 97-98% of DNA. Bonobos and chimpanzees they are even closer.

Gorilla seen from the front
Gorilla seen from the front

Species

Scientists recognize two species and four subspecies of gorillas.

  • Western Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla)
    • Western plain or plain (Gorilla gorilla gorilla)
    • West Cross River G. (Gorilla gorilla diehli)
  • Eastern Gorilla (Gorilla beringei)
    • Eastern plain or plain G. (Gorilla beringei graueri)
    • Mountain G. (Gorilla beringei beringei)

Features

The gorilla is a strong and robust animal, with an extremely thick and strong chest, and a prominent abdomen. The face is made up of large nostrils, small ears, and marked eyebrows. When they are adults they have elongated and muscular arms that are 15-20% longer than their robust legs.

There is a sexual dimorphism between males and females. The male is usually twice as heavy as the female and can reach a height of about 1,7 meters and a weight of 135 - 220 kg. The female can reach 1,5 meters in height and weigh between 70 and 90 kg. In captivity they can weigh twice as much, due to a fairly sedentary life.

Both skin and hair are black. The whole body is covered with hair except for the face, hands and feet. The chest of older males is hairless. Subspecies G. beringei beringei it has the longest hair of all subspecies.

Adult males have a prominent crest on top of the skull and a gray or silver-haired saddle on the lower back, hence the term silverback, which is used to refer to mature males. . This mount is much more striking in oriental gorillas (G. beringei), which are jet black, which in western gorillas (G. gorilla), which are rather dark gray-brown in color.

In terms of senses, it is also very similar to that of humans. The senses include hearing, taste, touch, smell, and sight. However, the sense of sight is not as sharp as that of humans although it can see in color.

Financial

Intelligence is at a lower level than that of chimpanzees, dolphins or humans, but they have been shown to have problem-solving abilities, insight, memory, and anticipation of experience. Although they grow out of curiosity and adaptability that chimpanzees do. Some can recognize themselves in a mirror, and have a limited sense of self-awareness, a trait they share with chimpanzees y orangutans. Only a few non-human animals possess this ability. In captivity, a gorilla has been taught human sign language. The full extent of his intelligence is still unknown.

It is also capable of creating and using tools in the wild based on observations of individuals in captivity. In 2005 a team led by Thomas Breuer of the Wildlife Conservation Society in September 2005 observed a female using a stick to measure the depth of the water while crossing a swamp. A second female was seen using a tree stump as a bridge and also as a support for fishing. Others were seen using rocks to crush walnuts as young as two years old.

We can observe the silver back of this gorilla
We can see the silver back of this gorilla.

Behavior

The gorilla is a sociable animal that lives in the jungle in groups of between 5 - 30 individuals. They are led by one or two silver-backed males who are usually pretended, usually a father one son or more than one. Sometimes siblings can lead a group. The other members are made up of females, calves, juveniles, and young adults. Young females join the group from other groups and young males are silverback descendants.

It is a diurnal and terrestrial animal. When it comes to moving, he walks using all four limbs, leaning on his knuckles. This mode of locomotion is shared with chimpanzees. Females climb more than males, due to their lower weight. Each group wanders through an area between 2 - 40 km2. Sometimes the territory is shared between several groups.

He spends most of his time eating, sleeping, and grooming others. It sleeps in a nest that they make with the arrival of sunset composed of bent branches, leaves and foliage. This nest is renewed every night, and each member of the group makes his own.

Many people think that they are violent animals as they emit loud growls, screams, a terrifying bark of alarm and roars. However, it is a shy and peaceful animal, although it is not necessary to relax, as they are large animal animals that can attack if threatened.

When the group is threatened by an intruder, the group leader (a silverback) will perform a display in order to intimidate. This display consists of blows to the chest, vocalizations or short blows towards the intruder, followed by a discreet retreat. They can also include running sideways, ripping vegetation, and hitting the ground. Usually the intruder will withdraw and never pose a real danger. Besides being used to intimidate outsiders or humans, it is also used as a way to communicate between groups, and to maintain the hierarchy of domination within the group. Females can perform these displays as well, but they are more intimidating in males because the air sacs in the throat and chest make the sound resonate more.

Gorilla resting, posing or thinking. Does anyone know?
Gorilla resting, posing or thinking. Does anyone know?

Habitat

The gorilla lives in forests and jungles. Depending on the subspecies, it can change its habitat. He Western plain or plain (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) lives in humid lowland forests and West Cross River G. (Gorilla gorilla diehli) inhabits a small wooded region along the Cross River.

Eastern plain or plain G. (Gorilla beringei graueri) lowland rainforests and the Mountain G. (Gorilla beringei beringei) mountainous rain forests and highland bamboo forests north and east of Lake Kivu.

Distribution

The gorilla is distributed in some areas of Africa. Although, depending on the subspecies, it can vary in geographical location. He Western plain or plain (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), is located from Cameroon to the Congo River, and the West Cross River G. (Gorilla gorilla diehli), is located along the Cross River that separates Nigeria from Cameroon.

Eastern plain or plain G. (Gorilla beringei graueri) lives in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa), and the Mountain G. (Gorilla beringei beringei), which is located north and east of Lake Kivu, near the borders of Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo (Kinshasa).

Food

The gorilla is a herbivorous animal; the diet varies according to the geographical area where they live. Eastern gorillas feed on leaves, fruit, stems, and shoots, while western gorillas add much more fruit. An adult individuate is capable of consuming up to 27 kg of food daily.

They generally do not like water, but gorillas that inhabit the Sangha-Ndoki region on the borders of Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville), and the Central African Republic wander into waist-deep marshy clearings, to search aquatic plants.

Predators

The gorilla is an animal of great strength and a social structure that provides great protection against predators, but still some animals dare to challenge them.

The main predator is the leopard (Panthera pardus) and the only one capable of killing an adult gorilla caught off guard. They are also prey for: red buffalo (Syncerus caffer nanus), African gray parrots (Psittacus erithacus), African forest elephants, hilóqueros (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni). They can also be prey for crocodiles that lurk in swamps, although in general they do not usually die from the attack but from infections caused by the wound. These attacks are very rare.

In general, predators tend to avoid silverbacks as they are the strongest and most battle-hardened. So they focus on young individuals and hatchlings.

The biggest predator is the human. Not even a leopard could harm a gorilla as much as humans do. They are usually targeted for trading, whether they are dead or alive.

Reproduction

The gorilla reaches sexual maturity around 9 years of age, but they do not reproduce until they are 12 - 15 years old, when they are more physically mature. The female reaches it at 10 years of age.

She gives birth once every four years, which limits her expansion. There is no fixed breeding season. Gestation contemplates a period of eight and a half months and the birth is usually single, although sometimes they can bring twins.

A newborn has the weight of about 2 kg and is totally defenseless during the first three months of life, therefore it will be carried in the arms of its mother. Sleeps in the mother's nest at night and rides on her back during the day.

Most male gorillas will leave the group in which they were born and form groups with other females. The females also have this behavior and will join a group of gorillas or a solitary silverback.

Forming a group or joining one is not easy. Sometimes they involve aggression with other males when trying to invade a group and kidnap their females. On occasion, a male will remain in the same group as a second silverback and will breed with a few females, assuming leadership when his father ages or dies. Life expectancy is about 35 years, although in captivity they have lived to 40 years.

State of conservation

The gorilla is becoming rarer within its natural range. This is due to human destruction of their habitat, large game hunting, and over-collection by zoos and research institutions. A recent threat is the hunting of bushmeat that affects gorillas.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Eastern plain or plain G. (Gorilla beringei graueri) is critically endangered as a subspecies. The population is only about 680 individuals. This is due to loss of habitat as a result of human activities: agriculture, grazing, logging, and, recently, habitat destruction. In contrast, ecotourism with tourist visits to see gorillas in their natural habitat has contributed to the conservation of this species.

Later, in 2008 an unknown population of more than 100.000 individuals was found. They live in the swamps of the Lake Télé Community Reserve, in the Republic of Congo.

Relationship with humans

The gorilla is one of the closest relatives to Homo sapiens, next to the chimpanzee and the dolphins. Their relationship is obvious just by looking at images and videos. Analyzing it more deeply we find that DNA is almost a copy of the human. This is because millions of years ago we shared a common ancestor that at some point divided into several species.

The proximity of DNA has made hundreds of humans throughout history analyze the characteristics, behavior, etc. of gorillas in laboratories.

Despite our proximity, they have been affected by poaching, to obtain meat, skins or hunting trophies. The destruction of their natural habitat by building cities or cutting down trees does them much more harm than their natural predators. They are killed for simple trophies, for meat or for skin.

Fortunately, not everyone wants to destroy them and there are numerous attempts to conserve them.

Popular culture

The gorilla has been around in human culture since it became popular in the 1860s. They have been seen depicted in monster fantasy films like King Kong. In addition to stories like Tarzan and Conán the Barbarian they have been presented as antagonists of the main protagonists.

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