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10 Amazing Gorilla Facts (you may not know)
Gorillas are our closest relatives, after the chimpanzee. They share around 98% of our genes. Like us, gorillas have two arms with 5 fingers on each “hand” and two legs with 5 toes on each “foot”. They have two small ears, one on each side of their head and forward-looking eyes. However unlike humans their arms are longer and more powerful than their legs. Their bodies are covered in thick dark hair and once a male reaches 15 years old the hair on his back will begin to turn silvery gray and he becomes known as a silverback.
A male gorilla can eat as much as 20kg (44lbs) of food each day. When gorillas aren’t sleeping or resting they spend most of their time foraging and eating. The majority of their diet is made up of leaves, shoots, fruits bulbs and vines. However they also feed on ants, termites, worms and insect larvae.
Despite bad press, gorillas are shy, peaceful animals, whose only natural enemy is humans. They are still-hunted for bushmeat and their bones and skin are still taken as trophies. Baby gorillas were once highly prized for the pet trade and zoos and in the process of capturing them, the hunters would often kill the other members of the family as they sought to defend the baby.
A Female gorilla normally reaches maturity around aged 8. Gestation usually lasts between 8 – 9 months and a female will usually have around 3 babies in their lifetime. A newborn gorilla will usually weigh between 1.5 – 2kg which is around half the weight of a human baby. The young will normally remain with their mother until they are between 4-6 years old.
Young gorillas are very playful and much more “arboreal” (able to climb trees) than their larger family members. The adults, including the silverback will tolerate infant play but as they get older this tolerance does decrease. However the silverback will tolerate and even participate in the play of juveniles and “black back” males.
A group of gorillas is called a “troop” or a “band. A typical family includes one silverback male who is the head of the family, one immature male who is between 8 and 13 years old, 3-4 adult females who usually stay with their silverback for life, and 3-6 youngsters under 8 years old. It is not unknown for groups to be larger than this or for males to travel alone or in “bachelor groups.”
Gorillas are highly intelligent animals and have the ability to show a large range of emotions. They are known to display positive emotions such as love, joy, pride, empathy and generosity as well as negative emotions such as fear, hate, greed, shame and jealousy. They are able to laugh when they are tickled and cry when they are sad. However they do not cry with tears as humans do but with sounds.
Gorillas are exceptionally communicative animals. They do not “talk” as humans do but their communication methods are still very complex. They use a variety of gestures body postures, vocalisations, chest slaps and facial expressions to communicate to their family and other gorillas they may meet.Male gorillas are well known for “beating their chest” while standing on their legs and roaring to intimidate would be attackers.
A gorilla sleeps for around 13 hours each night and will rest for several hours during the day. Each night they build new sleeping “nests” from vegetation, usually on the ground or in low-level trees.
There are 3 species of gorilla with total numbers estimated to be around 50,000. Of these the majority are western lowland gorilla. Scientists estimate there are as few as 600 mountain gorillas left and around 2,500 eastern lowland gorillas left. These low numbers mean the gorilla is classified as an endangered species.