Mountain Gorilla Info 03

Gorillas – their Home

Like all other apes, all gorillas live in the rain forest. Only chimpanzees  also occur in the tree Savannah.

The gorillas roam through their home ranges from one feeding place to  the next. They feed almost exclusively on plants, which they eat in large  quantities. To be able to process these masses of plant material, the  gorillas have very strong chewing muscles. Their teeth are very much like  human teeth, except for the very long, pointed canines of adult gorilla  males. The males don't use those for feeding but for fighting against  competing males.

Gorillas – Life in a family

Gorillas live in groups. As a rule, the groups consist of one adult male,  several females and their offspring. One way such a harem group starts  is by a female transferring from her natal group to a lone male. Growing  offspring of either sex usually leave their natal group. Females always  join another group or a lone male, whereas male gorillas usually turn  into loners.

In males, the separation process is slow: they spend more and more time  on the edge of the group until they leave altogether. In contrast, a female  leaves her group only if she encounters another male. The home ranges  of various gorilla groups and of lone silverback males overlap, so encounters  are frequent. Lone males often make a special effort to seek out harem  groups out, as this is their only chance to gain females. The leaders  of stable harem groups avoid contact with other adult males in order to  avoid losing females. If they detect a competitor, they try to drive him  away by displaying or attacking.

Gorillas – Rank Order

In a group of gorillas there is a clear hierarchy. The leading silverback  has the highest rank, and adult females are dominant over young animals.  Among the females, rank depends on factors such as how long they have  been in the group, for example. Among the young animals, rank usually  depends on age.

A gorilla male achieves his high-ranking position not only because of  his strength, which he proves when fighting against competitors, but also  because of his experience and abilities. For instance, he has to know  the area very well in order to lead his group to the right feeding sites  at the right time of the year. These days, it is also very important that  he knows how to deal with humans. Experienced gorilla males can, for example,  remove poachers' snares from the hands or feet of their group members.  As young males lack the necessary experience, they will find it difficult  to lead a group: If the females notice that their silverback male is too  inexperienced, they will transfer to another one.

Gorillas – Threats

  • stress caused by the constant presence of people,
  • diseases transferred by people or domestic animals,
  • hunting for their meat,
  • hunting for fetishes and trophies,
  • hunting in revenge for crop-raiding,
  • injuries through snares set for other animals,
  • war,
  • isolation of gorilla populations in small forest  islands,
  •  destruction of the forest through deforestation,  fire or mining of mineral resources.