Gorillas, often seen as creatures of monstrous myth and movies, are really smart, gentle, and sociable animals. These mammals of the Great Apes family prefer to live a peaceful, quiet life in the lush, green rain forests of Africa.
But, if disturbed, the dominant male can get very scary. He may stand upright, beat on his chest, and make roaring or barking sounds. Sometimes, he will tear up trees or throw plants!
As you can imagine, this threatening behavior is a very successful way to protect his family.
Where Do Gorillas Live?
There are two species of Gorillas – the Eastern and the Western. The rainforest habitats of these two populations are separated by the Congo River in Central Africa near the equator. Each species has two other subspecies related to them.
The Eastern species has a population called the Mountain gorilla. They live in the cold 13,000 feet Virunga Volcanic highlands in central Africa.
Their eastern lowland cousins, called the Grauer’s gorilla, live in the forest foothills of the mountains.
The Western species has a population called the Cross River gorilla. These shy animals were only named as a new species in 1904 and they are rarely seen.
Their cousins, called the western lowland gorillas are more numerous in the wild and in captivity.
Did You Know That Gorillas…
…get water from the vegetation they eat?
…have arms over 7 feet long?
…babies stay with Mom for 3-4 years?
…have hands and feet with 5 digits on each?
…sleep in ‘nests’ built of leaves and twigs?
What Do They Eat?
Gorillas eat mainly leaves, plants, stems, and flowers, shrubs, and vines. This makes them herbivores.
But they can also love to eat termites, which makes them omnivores, (plants and insects). Some species eat 25% of their diet in fruit.
Their diet is determined by what is available in their limited habitat.
What Do Gorillas Look Like?
Gorillas can range in colors from black, brown, to red-brown. The older males are called “silverbacks” when the coloring on the back and hips turns light gray. The younger males are called “blackbacks”.
Eastern gorillas have brighter coloring. The mountain gorillas have thicker fur for the colder altitudes.
Gorillas have no tail. Larger males can weigh up to 600 pounds. They have large muscles with a thick skeleton, which makes them very strong.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Red List of Threatened Species
This is a scientific criteria of listing the status of wildlife in the levels leading to extinction. Here are the codes used for you to know how much gorillas are endangered:
NE (Not Evaluated). DD (Data Insufficient). LC (Least Concern). NT (Near Threatened). VU (Vulnerable). EN (Endangered). CR (Critically Endangered). EW (Extinct in the Wild). X (Extinct)
How Many Gorillas Are Left in the World?
All gorilla populations are in danger of going extinct in the future. Total population for all gorillas may be about 100,000.
- Eastern lowland. Grauer’s gorilla. (CR). Less than 3,000 in the wild.
- Eastern Mountain. (CR). Population numbered 680 in 2008; now at 1,000 in 2018.
- Western Cross River. (CR) 250 in the wild
- Western lowland. EN. Number in tens of thousands in the wild and many in captivity.
Survival of the gorilla is threatened by hunting. Also, mining, logging, and agricultural interests are taking over their essential and very small habitat of tropical forests.
Zoo Baby Gorillas
Conservation efforts are in place in gorilla sanctuary parks in Africa and zoos around the world. Western gorillas seem to thrive in the ‘compassionate care’ of zoo settings.
Eastern gorillas are much more difficult to adapt to environments out of their natural habitats. Those populations are in the wild.
- Dallas, TX Zoo. Baby Mbani. August, 2019. Western lowland.
- Dublin Zoo, Ireland. Baby Asali. October, 2019. Western lowland female.
- Los Angeles Zoo, California. Baby girl. Jan. 2020. Western lowland.
- Jersey Zoo, Britain. Western lowland. Nov. 2019.
- Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo, Nebraska. Western lowland. May, 2019.
Remember, “G” is for Gorilla, our February Conservation Animal. What wild animal would you like to know about for March?
Thanks to all you Conservation Kids that love the ‘wild things’ of the world!
Don’t forget to ‘Color the Gorilla’ page and print out your ‘Smarty Pants February Conservation Certificate’ on the Gorilla.
“See ya later with our new March animal.”