Gorilla Facts and Information

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What does a gorilla look like? Where do gorillas live? What are the characteristics, behavior, diet, habitat of gorillas?

Gorilla; the largest of all primates and, together with the chimpanzee, the closest living relative of man. The gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) is a member of the ape family (Pongidae), which with the family of man (Homiriidae) constitute the superfamily Hominoidea.

Gorilla

Although weighing 4 to 5 pounds (about 2 kg) at birth and only 35 pounds (16 kg) at the age of 2 years, wild adult females weigh between 200 and 250 pounds (91-113 kg), and adult males about 450 pounds (204 kg); the males attain a height of 6 feet (about 2 meters). In captivity, gorillas often become very fat, and males weighing 600 to 700 pounds (272-318 kg) have been recorded.

Gorillas are massive animals with long, powerful arms and short, bowed legs. The face is black, and prominent browridges overhang the eyes. The coat of females and young males is brown to black, but adult males have a strikingly gray or silver back.

Gorillas rarely walk upright, and then only for short distances; usually they support their body on the knuckles of the hands. They are primarily terrestrial, climbing into trees only occasionally to reach some food or to sleep for the night.

Behavior and Diet. Gorillas were once thought to be fearful creatures that attack man without provocation. Actually they are shy and peaceful animals. They may try to intimidate man with their shattering roar or by beating their open hands alternately against the chest to produce a hollow sound. Rut only when harassed and un-
able to avoid an encounter do they rush at the intruder and bite him.

Gorillas are vegetarians. They subsist on a variety of bark, pith, leaves, roots, and fruits. They spend their day leisurely, feeding, resting,_ and sleeping. The animals rise soon after dawn, eat for 2 or 3 hours, then rest awhile; in the afternoon, they feed some more.

A group of gorillas travels about 1 to 3 miles (2-5 km) in the course of a day. In all their activity they are rather silent animals. While moving along, they utter soft grunts, which probably help them keep in touch with one another in the dense vegetation. Occasionally an infant screams when it has lost sight of its mother, and sometimes two squabbling animals grunt harshly in annoyance.

Toward dusk, each gorilla builds itself a nest for the night, either on the ground or in a tree, by bending herbs and branches toward its body until a crude platform has been formed. Infants sleep in the nest of their mother.

Gorillas are sociable animals that live in permanent groups, each containing about 5 to 20 animals. A typical group consists of one adult male, one or two younger males, several females, and young of various ages. The leader of a group is an adult male, and it is he who determines the route of travel, the place of nesting, and other group activities. Some males leave the group after they reach adulthood and become solitary.

A group wanders continuously within an area of about 10 to 15 square miles (26-39 sq km), rarely spending more than a day in one place, and builds new nests each night. Several groups may share the same part of the forest. When groups meet, they sometimes join briefly, but more commonly they merely pass each other by.

Reproduction and Longevity. Females reach sexual maturity at about 6 or 7 years of age, males at about 9 or 10 years. A female produces one young about every 4 years.

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