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Scientific Name: Gorilla gorilla
Western Gorilla Description
For the most part the Western and Eastern Gorillas are the same. However, there are some distinct differences. For example the Western species ends up being smaller. They are about 600 pound full grown and they can be close to five feet tall. The females are smaller than that. They also have a nose with an overhang at the end of it.
Most of them are dark black in color with thick fur that helps to protect them from the sunlight. They can be dark brown in color as well. The gray color that the males get as they mature is symbolistic of their age and their power. The term silverback is often thought to be a species but it is actually a reference to the coloring that develops on their bodies.
The facial structure of the Western Gorilla is one that many people are afraid of. What is ironic is the tougher it looks and more distinct the more attractive they are to each other. Yet the more aggressive humans seem to view them as.
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Western Gorilla Anatomy
Even though they are very heavy animals they have the agility that very few their size do. What is it about them that makes their bodies so limber? Some experts think it could be due to all the fiber they take in with their diet. They are too heavy to be swinging from the trees like other primates though. Instead they walk upright when they want to but mainly prefer to do so on their knuckles. They can move at the speed of lightning in such a position.
Part of what makes that possible is the length of their arms. It is important to note that the arms are much longer than the legs. If they were the same size it would put too much pressure on the back as they walked. You may have noticed that these gorillas have very powerful jaws with sharp teeth in them. They often show those teeth when they have to be aggressive but it is seldom that they use them for fighting.
Take a close look at pictures of the hands of the Western Gorillas compared with those of humans. You will find some very similar characteristics offered. For example they have finger nails just like we do. They do have thumbs that are quite a bit larger than their fingers though.
Western Gorilla Evolution
If you want to start a heated debate bring up the topic of evolution, humans, and gorillas in a conversation. It is known that some primates evolved from lower primates about 20 million years ago. Is it possible that humans are the result of that evolution process as well? There have been fossilized remains of gorillas that date more than 70 million years ago. Even so, it isn’t fully understood what all has taken place.
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Western Gorilla Behavior
It is very sad that these calm and intelligent animals are often thought of as dangerous wild creatures out to kill humans in their path. The few gorilla attacks that have occurred are due to them feeling threatened in some way. In fact, they will prefer to give a loud roar and to stand tall as a warning for the intruder to leave. If they don’t then they leave the gorillas no choice but to take action to protect their troop.
The silverback takes on a huge responsibility for his troop. He will fight to the death to defend them. Should he be killed by another gorilla then they will take over the troop. However, if he dies of natural causes or due to humans then the troop will go their separate ways and try to join other troops that are out there.
Western Gorilla Habitat
Western Gorillas are native to the areas around Africa. They seem to be quite spread out which makes it hard to find all of them. Most of them are found among the forests in the lowlands. They find plenty of food there as well as places where they can remain hidden from common predators. There are plenty of them living high up in the mountain areas as well. Even though there isn’t as much food, there doesn’t seem to be as many of the gorillas competing for it either.
You will find that all of the species of gorillas that are in captivity are the Western species. They seem to do very well if they have all of the right components. This includes a silverback to lead them, plenty of open areas to explore, and plenty of food.
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Western Gorilla Feeding Habits
In spite of the fact that they have very sharp teeth, gorillas aren’t meat eaters. Instead they consume plants, leaves, grass, twigs, dirt due to the nutrients in it, and sometimes ants or termites. They will also eat a ton of delicious fruits that grow in the various areas. There are over 100 of them known to grow in this region. Their pattern of movement through their territory helps them to take full advantage of when these are ripe.
The silverback is very important to the group when it comes to eating. He decides when it is time to move on to a new location for food. This is well before a given area has been depleted of its vegetation. They can move several times in a single day depending on what he decides.
It is very interesting that they can use rocks and sticks to pry open shells on nuts when they want to consume such foods. They will do so when they can’t seem to get enough of the other items then need to survive on.
Western Gorilla Reproduction
In addition to taking care of the troop, it is the privilege of the silverback to mate with the females in his troop. This is why other younger males will often try to fight to get that status within a troop. They aren’t able to mate until they have taken on such a role. That can end up being when they are from 15 to 20 years of age. Should a new male take over a troop he will kill all of the young as well.
The females are ready for mating when they are about 10 years of age. There isn’t a set mating season for these animals. The females are excellent at teaching their young how to survive. They will stay with them for the first four years. At that time the young must move on to find their own troop to be a part of. She will only mate again after her young are gone. Due to the mortality rate though she may be ready to mate sooner than she had planned.
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Western Gorilla Predators
There are some very fast wild cats out there in the same areas, and they prove to be quite a threat to the young. The mothers try to keep them close but that isn’t’ always possible. It only takes a moment for a predator like that to make off with her offspring. The adult Western Gorillas are usually too much of a fight for them to try to take down.
Humans have created plenty of problems for these gorillas though. They have hunted them for meat and for the sport of it. They have depleted the natural environment where they live by plenty of land and that makes it hard for them to find enough food. When they lack enough food they also won’t reproduce.