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Gorillas - the Gentle Giants
It seems that gorillas have always fascinated man, probably
because they are the largest and strongest animal on the planet, yet not
vicious. Yet, I think it's more than that, as we have learned through the years
they are certainly more intelligent mammals than most and many people believe
in evolution with the ape as the first type of human. The Eastern Gorilla is a
species of the genus Gorilla that is subdivided into two subspecies; the
Eastern Low land Gorilla is the most popular with about 5000 gorillas and the Mountain
Gorilla which only has 700 individuals is on the endangered species list.
Western Gorillas Loss of Habitat
Genetically we are quite similar to gorillas (between 95%-98%), yet our DNA is more closely matched to the chimpanzees. Obviously there are some apparent differences as gorilla arms are longer than their legs; so while they can walk on their back legs they will use the backs of their fingers like extra feet when walking, which is called the knuckle walk.
Sadly there are only a little more than 700 mountain gorillas surviving in the dense forest of Central Africa. The Gorilla Organization is an international charity that seeks to save these large gorillas from extinction. They formed this charity in 1971, and the population of the mountain gorillas has increased 17% since that time. The organization is proud to announce the birth of rare twin mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda on February 3, 2011.
The most serious threat to the mountain gorillas is the loss of habitat because not only are their forest homes being cut down for lumber, but there is a vast mineral reserve called coltan. Coltan is a key component used in the production of mobile phones, and there's a very rich supply right in the midst of the gorillas habitat.
Mountain Gorilla Baby
Gorilla and infant; Silverback Mountain Gorilla National Geographic
Mountain Gorilla Facts
Male mountain gorillas are 5’6” – 6’ tall and females are up to 5’ tall. Males weigh from 300 to 500 pounds, while females weigh from 150 to 200 pounds. The lifespan for gorillas is about 35 years in the wild and up to 50 years in zoos. Their gestational period is 8.3 to 9 months and they usually have one, rarely two infants, weighing 4 to 5 pounds at birth. The age of maturity is about 13 years for males and 10 years for females.
The way the gorilla lives in the wild is very interesting to study. They tend to live in groups of 5 to 30 with one strong male designated as the troop leader. The troop leader has a big job, for he is responsible for the safety of each member, and he makes all the decisions as they move each day to a new area so they have enough food supply. Everything a gorilla eats is plant material; therefore they live in the forest and eat leaves, stems, fruits, seeds, and roots. They love to eat! An average male gorilla will eat up to 40 pounds of food each day, and they have large stomachs that can hold this bulky food. They also have strong jaws which helps them to chew up tough stems. Each morning after they have eaten, each adult gorilla gathers leaves, twigs, and branches to make a day nest for resting while the youngsters play. After their nap the gorillas will eat again until bedtime. They will either make another nest on the ground or sleep in the tree because they never use the same nest twice.
Research on Thinking Apes
Many scientist are doing research to compare the human brain to the brain of the ape. If the human being looks at a picture they can tell whether a person is running or sitting still. Tomas Persson, a Swedish researcher states he has the most promising evidence to date that proves you do not have to have a human brain to understand pictures as representations. More studies need to be known until we know the extent of disability and apes but it is unclear if it is a matter of the training method or the capacity of the ape. Apparently there is quite a lot of research happening on the capability of thinking in apes which is an expanding field internationally.
A female gorilla is ready to have babies of her own when she is eight or 10 years old, however, she must leave the safety of her troop and find another troop or a long Silveback to live with. The females only produce one baby approximately every five years. Newborns grow very quickly and at 5 to 6 months old it learns to walk and by 18 months of age it can follow mom on foot for short distances. Typically the babies travel on their mothers back to the dense vegetation in the forest for safety reasons. The infant gorillas imitate what the others in the troop are doing by play fighting with other youngsters. Even the stern silverbacks are gentle like daddies with the little ones as they practice new skills, but a young gorilla stays close to its mom sharing her nest until old enough to be on their own.
Touched by a Wild Mountain Gorilla
Western Lowland Gorilla
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Eastern and Western Lowland Gorillsa
The other gorillas are called the Western and Eastern Lowland Gorillas and they live in montage (forested land near, mountains), primary and secondary forests, plus low land swamps in Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. It is typically this gorilla that is found in zoos.
These gorillas do not display territorial behavior and live within a home range averaging 3 to 18 miles. Food availability dictates their travels. Larger groups tend to travel greater distances in order to obtain sufficient food. Gorillas are actually shy, but they will defend their family fiercely. A silverback gorilla always heads groups of guerrillas as they are adult males that is more than 12 years of age and dominant in nature. The silverback named reflects a characteristic patch of silver hair on their back.
These gorillas tend to live in family groups with one dominant male as well and they usually have 5 to 7 adult females, children, adolescents, and possibly a few non-dominant males. The Western lowland gorilla is the smallest subspecies of the gorillas with the males reaching 5’7”, weighing almost 400 pounds. Western low land gorillas have a more pronounced brow ridge and years that appear small in relation to their heads, plus they also have a different shaped nose and lip. Low land gorilla have short, soft and very fine hair as there is no need for the insulating layer of hair that the mountain gorillas require. Their diet includes bamboo, small turtles and occasional insects and they eat about 20 pounds a day.
The Eastern lowland gorilla is larger and they have the silvery white back that inspired the name silverback. Male gorillas are approximately 5 1/2 feet tall and weigh between 300 and 400 pounds. Females are smaller at 5 feet tall and average 200 pounds. Eastern lowland gorillas live in tropical forest from low elevations up to 8000 feet in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and along the border of Uganda and Rwanda.
Two Popular Movies
Below are two popular movies which reflect gorillas in two exact opposite ways. These are just one example of our fascination with gorillas.
Mighty Joe Young Part 1
King Kong (1/10) Movie CLIP - Human Sacrifice
A gorilla was walking through the jungle when he came across a deer eating grass in a clearing. The gorilla roared, 'Who is the king of the jungle?, and the deer replied, 'Oh, you are, Master.' The gorilla walked off pleased. Soon he came across a zebra drinking at a water hole. The gorilla roared, 'Who is the king of the jungle?' and the zebra replied, 'Oh, you are, Master.' The gorilla walked off pleased. Then he came across an elephant. 'Who is the king of the jungle?' he roared. With that, the elephant threw the gorilla across a tree and jumped on him. The gorilla scraped himself up off the ground and said, 'Okay, okay, there's no need to get mad just because you don't know the answer.'
Gorillas use a wide range of facial expressions to communicate with each other. Maybe this explains how Koko could learn sign language. They sometimes protrude their tongue forward and use various vocal sounds or slap their chest, and even laugh when they are tickled.
Unfortunately guerrillas are struggling for survival today as their habitat shrinks. They are also sometimes being hunted down for their meat or to sell some of their parts. This is just heartbreaking. People should realize the importance of these animals for the ecological balance in nature. They are harmless to people and live independently in the forest when left alone.
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