Gorillas are the biggest animals in the primate species. They’re also endangered, which means we need to take steps to protect these extraordinary animals.
Gorillas are very human-like; they’re bipedal just like us (they walk on two legs) and also have opposable thumbs.
They’re highly intelligent animals, with incredible language and other communication skills.
The lifespan of a gorilla ranges from 50 to 60 years when raised in captivity, but their lifespan is much shorter in the wild.
To learn more about gorillas, their habitats, diets, and family life, keep reading!
General Gorilla Facts
Gorillas are not monkeys. Instead, they are classified as great apes; and are the biggest primates in existence.
One giveaway that proves gorillas are apes rather than monkeys is that they do not have a tail (whereas monkeys do).
Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution dictates that as humans we evolved from apes, which might explain why humans and apes are so alike!
The two species of gorilla are Western and Eastern. There are also two subspecies belonging to the Western and Eastern species.
The Western gorilla species is made up of Cross River and Western Lowland, whereas the Eastern species is made up of Mountain and Eastern Lowland.
Cross River and Western Lowland gorillas are usually brown and grey in color. Mountain and Eastern Lowland gorillas, on the other hand, are normally black in color.
The chimpanzee and bonobo species are the nearest primate species to humans, but gorillas are next in line in terms of genetics.
They’re exceptionally intelligent and can communicate with their hands, with facial expressions, and even with some language. Gorillas are well-known for being able to express emotion, just as humans do.
One impressive characteristic you probably already know about gorillas is their ability to communicate using sign language.
They can also use and make tools and have fingerprints. They can make great use of their hands in the same way that early humans did.
Usually, wild gorillas live for an average of 35 years. Captivity tends to fare better for the gorilla lifespan, with average spans of around 50 years. The oldest ever gorilla died at the age of 60.
The size of gorillas tends to vary across the species, with the majority of adult gorillas standing at around four to six feet.
Weight also varies, with small Western gorillas weighing in at between 150 to 400 lbs, and the largest Eastern gorillas weighing around 550 lbs.
Gorillas are normally around six times stronger than humans. Because they weigh so much (especially Eastern gorillas) they need lots of upper body strength to move around in trees and lift themselves frequently.
The arms of a gorilla are longer than its legs, which allows it to walk on all four limbs easily. Gorillas tend to exhibit knuckle-walking, which is when they use their knuckles to move around on all fours.
Even though they demonstrate bipedal walking too, they can only do this for distances of around 10 feet, so tend to spend more time on all fours as this is more natural for them.
Now you’ve read about some general gorilla facts, you might be wondering what gorillas eat to keep their strong bodies fit and healthy for lots of tree-climbing.
Read on to find out about the gorilla diet, and what makes a tasty meal for these amazing animals.
What Is A Gorilla’s Diet Like?
Gorillas are known herbivores, feeding on a huge variety of vegetation. They eat lots of different things including leaves, bamboo, fruit, celery, roots, branches, and tree pulp.
Sometimes, gorillas feed on insects and small animals (despite the fact they’re herbivores, so this only makes up a meager portion of their diet).
They sometimes even eat soil to help digest their vegetation-rich diet.
Male gorillas can eat a whopping 40 lbs of vegetation per day, which makes up a huge 10% of their own body weight.
Gorillas are known to be diurnal – which means they normally eat in the morning and evenings. They also snack during the day.
The middle of the day is when gorillas tend to take naps and groom each other, while young gorillas engage in play.
When night falls, all of the gorillas sleep in their nests – which are beds created from leaves.
Because gorillas eat a diet rich in vegetation, they don’t need lots of water. They get enough hydration from their diet and the morning dew on the leaves they eat.
This is excellent for their survival, as they don’t need a constant supply of water.
Gorillas’ diets are important for keeping them healthy, but what about where they live?
Animals have different habitats depending on their individual needs, and gorillas are no different. So, where are gorillas normally found?
What Are Gorilla Habitats Like?
Gorillas who live in the wild are normally located in sub-Saharan Africa, with Western gorillas living West of the Congo River and Eastern gorillas living in the mountains in the East.
Gorillas live close to the ground of tropical forests. They can live anywhere within these habitats, including swampy lowlands and cold mountain forests.
Eastern gorillas live in habitats with altitudes of up to 13,000 feet, while Western gorillas normally stay at about half of that.
Western gorillas are very widely distributed. They can be found in lots of different areas, such as Cameroon, Angola, Nigeria, and the Republic of Congo.
The Mountain gorilla subspecies tend to occupy the Virunga Mountains, Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Cross River gorilla subspecies are the rarest within the species and only inhabit small areas of Cameroon and Nigeria.
The Eastern lowland subspecies are normally found in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo within the national parks and forests.
There are lots of different habitats that gorillas occupy with their troops. Now, let’s learn a little more about these troops (or families).
What Is Family Life Like For A Gorilla?
Gorilla families are made up of “troops” of anywhere between 2 and 50 members. Small groups normally consist of around 10 members, while big groups can have around 50.
Male silverback gorillas are the dominant members of the troops, as they are very large (between 400 and 500 lbs in weight) and more aggressive (sometimes beating their chests).
They are highly protective of their troop, but they are however normally very peaceful until they see a threat to the members of their families.
The rest of the gorilla troop is made up of lots of females which mate with the silverback to produce offspring.
The silverback gorillas sometimes cast aside other male members as they are dominant and have the right to mate with all female members exclusively.
Female gorillas have a gestation period of eight and a half months, which is remarkably similar to the human gestation period.
Like humans, females normally only give birth to one baby gorilla at a time, with twins being born on rare occasions.
Baby gorillas tend to weigh around 4 lbs when they are born, with only around three or four offspring being born to each female across their lifespan.
Baby gorillas usually nurse right up until the age of three. They are able to crawl at two months of age and can walk by eight or nine months.
Female gorillas carry their offspring in their arms until around four months of age when they switch to their mother’s back. Riding on the mother’s back normally happens until around two to three years of age.
Gorillas become mature at around seven to ten years of age, and then exit the troop to locate a mate.
Blackbacks (young male gorillas) either travel alone in a bid to become lone silverbacks or look for a mate to begin their own troop. Young female gorillas usually look for a mate and join a new troop.
Gorillas are amazing creatures with high intelligence and lots of excellent adaptive qualities.
They are remarkably similar to humans, in their ability to communicate their emotions both with humans and the members of their troop.
Because gorillas are an endangered primate species, it’s very important that conservation efforts look towards protecting their future as some of the biggest and brightest primates on our planet.