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Gorillas are ranked to among the four primate species that are close living relatives of human beings. Other primates in the same class include chimpanzees, Bonobos and orangutans. The mentioned are different from monkeys for the following reasons:
They are larger in size, walk upright for a longer period of time, don’t have tails and have much larger, more developed brains.
Gorillas are classified into three: the eastern lowland, the mountain gorilla, the western lowland gorilla and the Cross River gorilla. Like any other primates, gorillas have arms that are longer than their legs and tend to walk on all four limbs at certain times – a movement that is called knuckle walking. Adult males are known as ‘silverbacks’ due to the distinctive silver-colored hair on their backs.
The likeness of gorilla can vary based on sub-species, but for the most part, the western subspecies tend to be brownish gray in color, while the eastern and mountain gorillas tend to have a more blackish coat. Mountain gorillas also have longer and thicker fur which is adapted to their colder mountainous habitat.
The three lowland subspecies of gorillas sport short, fine hair. Eastern lowland gorillas are the largest of the four subspecies.
Gorillas are herbivores and eat leaves, shoots, roots, vines and fruits – thus they do not eat meat.
The number of Eastern lowland Gorilla is constantly declining to below 5,000 today. Critically endangered, there are fewer than 300 Cross River gorillas. Mountain gorillas, another endangered subspecies, number at around 700. A recent survey has shown that there are around 150,000-200,000 western lowland gorillas. It should be noted that mountain Gorillas are most liked by the tourists than low lands gorillas.
Eastern lowland gorillas can be sighted in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) while mountain gorillas in Uganda are Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park & Mgahinga national Park, Rwanda’s Volcanoes national Park and the Virunga National Park of Democratic Republic of Congo.
Western lowland gorillas inhabit Cameroon, Nigeria, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, eastern DRC, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Angola. Cross River gorillas are confined to a small region in Nigeria and Cameroon.
Gorillas stay in Groups of 6-12 under the leadership of a mature male Gorilla known as the silverback. Like elders in the family, young gorillas are nurtured by the elders in the group – the silverback gorilla offer security to the entire group
Younger male gorillas are called blackbacks and are groomed to succeed the silverbacks after death but some times blackback gorillas can upgrade to silverback level and form their new groups. The silverback makes the decisions on when his group wakes up, eats, moves and rests for the night. Because he must protect his family at all times, the silverback tends to be the most aggressive. In such situations, he will beat his chest and charge at the perceived threat.
Gorillas are shy animals that are most active during the day. At dusk, each gorilla constructs a ‘nest’ of leaves and plant material in which it will sleep. Mothers usually share their nests with nursing infants. The silverback has the exclusive rights to mate with the females in his group.
Reproduction: Gorillas do mate any time through out the year and gestation is 8.5 months and mostly give birth to 1 baby.
Gorilla infants are helpless at birth and weigh about 3-4 lbs. They learn to crawl at about 2 months and are walking by the time they are around 8 or 9 months. Mother gorillas nurse their babies for about 3 years, following which the young become more independent.
Gorillas are affected by people’ encroachment their environment, poachers, diseases like Ebola affects the Gorillas, Mountain Gorillas who leave in higher elevations are also affected by climate change.