About the Western Lowland Gorilla

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DESCRIPTION

  • The gorilla is the largest of the living primates.
  • Western lowland gorillas have brownish-gray coats. This fur covers the animal’s entire body, except for its hands, feet, and face.
  • An older male gorilla is sometimes referred to as a “silverback.” This is because the fur on its back and behind grows gray with age.
  • Males are often larger than females. In captivity, male western lowland gorillas have reached weights of up to 600 pounds. However, the average wild male weighs about 400 pounds. Wild females weigh about half that.
  • There is a cone-shaped peak at the top of a male’s head. Females also have this peak, but it is much less pronounced.
  • Gorillas have a facial structure that is described as mandibular prognathism. That is, their mandible (lower jaw) protrudes farther out than their maxilla (upper jaw).

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Gorillas are divided into two species: eastern and western.

HABITAT

  • Western lowland gorillas live in dense rainforests with plenty of trees to provide shelter.

RANGE

  • This gorilla species has a limited range in central Africa.
  • Small populations live in the forests of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

DIET

  • Primarily a vegetarian, the western lowland gorilla feeds on stemmed plants, leaves, berries, and bark.
  • Occasionally the gorilla may exhibit an omnivorous diet and eat insects. This usually only makes up about 1 to 2 percent of its diet.

REPRODUCTION

  • After a nine-month pregnancy, the female gorilla gives birth to one offspring.
  • From the age of four months to up to three years, the baby gorilla travels by clinging to its mother’s fur, like a never-ending piggyback ride.

BEHAVIOR

  • The gorilla’s arms are longer than its legs. Because of this, it moves quadrupedally (meaning on all four limbs). However, unlike other primates that move on all fours and support their weight on the palms of their hands, the gorilla supports its weight on the back of the third and fourth fingers of its curled hands. This motion is called “knuckle-walking”.
  • A group of gorillas is called a troop. One older, dominant male leads each troop of up to 30 gorillas.

STATUS

  • The western lowland gorilla is listed as critically endangered.

THREATS

  • People illegally poach and capture wild gorillas in order to make a profit for themselves.
  • Gorillas are federally protected everywhere they live, but there is a lack of enforcement surrounding anti-poaching laws.
  • With growing human populations in the areas where it lives, the gorilla is struggling due to habitat alteration. Deforestation is the main concern driving the decline of gorilla populations.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Wild gorillas may live to the age of 35. In captivity, they may live up to 20 years longer than that.

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