Photo: Cheryl Ramalho via Getty Images
Did you know that there is only one species of gorilla left on the planet? And they are in danger of becoming extinct.
This article will learn more about these fantastic creatures, including their physical characteristics and what they eat.
We will also discuss the threats to their survival and what people are doing to help preserve them.
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Description and Appearance
Gorillas are the largest of all primates. They are stocky animals with short legs and long arms that end in solid hands with opposable thumbs.
Adult male gorillas, called silverbacks, can weigh up to 450 pounds (200 kg). Females are much smaller and typically weigh about half as much as males.
Gorillas have thick, dark brown or black fur. The hair on their head is shorter than elsewhere on their body and often appears to be parted in the middle.
Gorillas live in Africa and can be found in the forests of Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Gabon, Congo, and Uganda.
They spend most of their time in trees, but they also travel on the ground. Gorillas typically live in small family groups of about 5 to 10 individuals, led by a silverback male.
There are two species of gorillas: the eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei) and the western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla).
The eastern gorilla is further divided into two subspecies: the mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) and the lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri).
Mountain gorillas are found in the mountainous regions of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Lowland gorillas are found in the lowland forests of Cameroon, Gabon, Congo, and the Central African Republic.
Photo: ANDREYGUDKOV via Getty Images
Gorillas are vegetarians and mostly eat leaves, stems, and roots. They also eat fruit, bark, and other plant materials.
In the wild, gorillas consume about 2% of their body weight in vegetation each day. In captivity, they may eat up to twice that amount.
Gorillas have large stomachs that ferment the plants they eat, allowing them to extract nutrients that other animals cannot.
Gorillas are very picky eaters and will only consume certain parts of certain plants. This helps them get the most nutrition from their food.
Gorillas reproduce slowly. Females give birth to only one baby at a time, and they do not become fertile again until the first baby is about 3 to 4 years old.
This means that a female gorilla can have only two or three babies in her lifetime.
The silverback male protects the females and young in his group from outsiders.
Only the silverback can mate with the females, and he will often mate with several of them.
The gestation period for gorillas is about 8.5 months. The baby is born weighing about 4 pounds (1.8 kg).
It will cling to its mother's fur and ride on her back until about 3 to 4 years old.
The baby is weaned at about two years old but will stay with its mother until 6 to 8 years old.
Gorillas reach sexual maturity at about ten years old. Males typically leave their group when they reach adulthood and strike out independently.
They will eventually join another group or form their own. Females usually stay with their natal group for their entire lives.
Gorillas have a life span of about 35 to 40 years in the wild. In captivity, they can live up to 50 years.
Distribution & Habitat
Gorillas live in Africa and can be found in the forests of Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Gabon, Congo, and Uganda. They spend most of their time in trees, but they also travel on the ground.
Gorillas typically live in small family groups of about 5 to 10 individuals, led by a silverback male. Each group has a home range of about 2 to 15 square miles (5 to 40 square kilometers).
The silverback male protects the females and young in his group from outsiders. Only the silverback can mate with the females, and he will often mate with several of them.
Males typically leave their group when they reach sexual maturity and strike out independently. They will eventually join another group or form their own. Females usually stay with their natal group for their entire lives.
Photo: ddea via Getty Images
Gorillas are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The primary threat to gorillas is habitat loss due to deforestation and human settlement.
Gorillas are also hunted for their meat and captured for the pet trade. However, these activities are not considered significant threats to the species.
Gorillas are protected by law in all the countries where they are found, and conservation efforts are underway to help preserve their habitat.
You can help gorillas by supporting organizations that work to conserve their habitat and choosing products from sustainable sources.
Other Interesting Facts
These interesting facts will help you learn more about gorillas and their unique place in the animal kingdom:
- Gorillas are the largest living primates. They are also the closest living relatives to humans, sharing 98% of their DNA with us.
- Gorillas are shy and gentle animals. They are not known to attack humans unless they feel threatened.
- Gorillas have a very sophisticated social structure. Each group is led by a silverback male and typically contains 5 to 10 individuals.
- They are primarily vegetarian but occasionally eat insects or small mammals.
- Gorillas have a life span of about 35 to 40 years in the wild. In captivity, they can live up to 50 years.
- Approximately 700 mountain gorillas and about 100,000 lowland gorillas remain in the wild.
- "gorilla" comes from the Greek word for "tribe of hairy women."
- Gorillas are the only animals that make nests. They build them each night to sleep in and use the same nest for several nights in a row.
- Gorillas have been observed using tools in the wild, such as using sticks to gauge water depth.
- The primary threat to gorillas is habitat loss due to deforestation and human settlement.
Gorillas are amazing animals, and there is still so much to learn about them. These facts are just a tiny snapshot of all we know about these creatures.
As our closest living relatives, they offer us a unique window into our past. And as one of the most endangered species on the planet, they also remind us of the importance of conservation.
We hope that you have enjoyed learning about gorillas and will continue to help protect these amazing animals for generations to come.
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