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Interesting Facts on One of Our Closest Kin, The Gorilla

Updated on December 12, 2014

Western Lowland Gorilla


Gorilla Species

There are two species of gorillas, the Eastern gorilla and the Western gorilla. The eastern gorilla is the largest primate in the world. There are two sub species of this gorilla which is the Eastern Lowland and the Mountain gorillas.

The Western gorilla is slightly smaller in size but very similar in appearance to the Eastern gorilla. There are two sub species of the Western gorilla, the Western Lowland and the Cross River gorilla. The Western Lowland gorillas are usually the ones you see when you visit your zoo as they seem to adjust much better to a zoo type environment.

Gorilla Range Map


Gorilla Population

The Western gorilla is considered as endangered but there are more of them than there are the Eastern gorilla which is considered severely endangered. It is estimated that there are around 100,000 of the Western Lowland gorilla and only about 300 of the Cross River gorilla. There are approximately 5,000 Eastern Lowland gorillas and only 600 of the Eastern Mountain gorilla. This, of course, is due to decades of poaching and habitat destruction. In 2008, there were approximately 125,000 Western gorillas found in the Republic of Congo.


Both species of gorillas weight between 150 to 400 pounds and stand between 4 and 6 feet in height. Male gorillas are called “silver backs” due to the distinctive silver colored hair on the backs. Young males are called “black backs”. Gorillas have dark brown eyes, framed with a black ring around the iris. They also have individual finger prints, just as humans.

The pictures here are of a Western Lowland gorilla. Both species of gorilla are usually black in color but the Eastern gorillas can be a dark brown or grayish in color. The best way to tell the difference is that the Western gorilla has a small “overhang” on the tip of its nose. Mountain gorillas tend to have longer, more course hair than the Lowland gorillas.

Gorilla in Thought

I wonder what he is thinking about.
I wonder what he is thinking about. | Source


Gorillas are highly intelligent mammals and one of the signs of higher intelligence is the ability to use “tools”. Gorillas have been seen using rocks to smash palms nuts and one female gorilla was seen using a stick to gauge the depth of a swamp she wanted to cross.

Some gorillas have even been taught sign language and are able to somewhat communicate with their trainers. They have strong family bonds and laugh as well as grieve. They even seem to have their own color preferences.

Gorilla Eating Grass


Gorillas herbivorous and eat leaves, roots, vines, and fruit. Mountain gorillas eat mostly foliage such as leaves, roots and shoots and little fruit. While the lowland gorillas have a more diverse diet, also eating foliage, but have a much higher diet of fruit and will eat insects such as termites and ants. An adult gorilla can eat up to 30 kilograms of food each day.


Gorillas lives in groups called troops. Each troop is led my one male silverback. There are several females in each troop who mate with the silverback. The females all stay close to him for protection. The silverback makes the decisions for the troop, such as where to travel and when. He also mediates conflicts among the troop, leads them to feeding sites and will protect his troop with his life.

They are most active during the day and at night will make nests on the ground on which to sleep. Their nests are made up of leaves and other plant material. The young will normally sleep in the nest with their mother until they are about 3 years old. Female gorillas reach sexual maturity at 10 to 12 years old and normal have 1 young at a time, usually weighing only 4 pounds at birth. Infants remain in close contact with their mother, clinging to her fur until they are about 4 to 5 months old. They still stay very close to their mother and will travel on her back.

Troop of Western Lowland Gorillas

Predators and Life Span

Other than man, the only real predator of the gorilla is the leopard. Leopards will attack small females, their young, or sickly gorillas. Skeletal remains of a gorilla and a leopard were found together where they apparently had a fight to the death, in which both of them were mortally wounded.

The natural life span of the gorilla is between 35 and 40 years. Gorillas in captivity have lived for as much as 50 plus years. The oldest known gorilla is in the Columbus Zoo and as of her last birthday, December 22nd, 2013, she was 57 years old.

Do you find it intriguing to learn more about the gorilla?

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