Gorillas are capable climbers, but spend almost all of their time on the ground in groups of up to 30 which are called troops. Troops are led by one dominant older adult male called a silverback. Adult males are called silverbacks because silver-coloured hair develops on their backs as they age. The silverback leads other members of his group and their young through the forest in search of food and rest locations. He sorts out conflicts between group members, and is responsible for the safety of the whole group.
Gorillas sleep for about 13 hours each night and rest for several hours in the middle of the day. They build new sleeping nests each night by bending nearby plants into a soft springy platform, usually on the ground or in low trees. When not resting they spend most of their time looking for food and eating. They also spend a lot of time grooming each other, which helps to strengthen bonds and to remove parasites.
Gorillas communicate with each other in a variety of ways. They cough, grunt and hoot, and like humans will communicate though facial expressions and body language. It is thought that they can cry, although they do this by making a noise, and not by shedding tears. They also beat their chests with cupped hands (to make the sound louder) and can run for a very short distance on two legs, although they normally walk on all four limbs.
Gorillas are able to grasp objects with both their hands and feet, as their big toes stick out sideways like thumbs. Just like humans, every gorilla has a unique fingerprint. They also have a unique nose print that can be used to identify them!
In recent decades gorilla populations have been affected by habitat destruction, poaching and disease. They are killed by humans for their meat, for the illegal pet trade or for body parts to be used in medicines and as souvenirs. As they are so closely related, diseases can be passed on from humans. Due to their shy nature and wariness of man, gorillas are being pushed into smaller and smaller areas away from human activity. There are fewer than 800 mountain gorillas surviving in the wild.
|Males:||Silverback when mature, Blackback when not|
|Life Expectancy:||30-50 years|
|Diet:||Leaves, fruit, seeds, tree bark, shoots, flowers, bulbs, vines|