Western Lowland Gorilla

Western Lowland Gorilla

Mammalia

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

COMMON NAME: Western lowland gorilla
KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Primates
FAMILY: Hominidae
GENUS SPECIES: Gorilla gorilla gorilla (hairy human)

FAST FACTS

DESCRIPTION: These great apes have black to grayish or reddish-brown hair that covers the body except on face, soles of hands and feet, and upper chest.
MALE All males acquire a silver-gray color across the back and upper thighs at sexual maturity. Males have an enlarged sagittal crest, which is a bone ridge on the top of the cranium.
SIZE:  
MALE Up to 1.7 m (5.5 ft)
FEMALE Up to 1.4 m (4.5 ft)
WEIGHT:
MALE Up to 182 kg (400 lbs)
FEMALE Up to 102 kg (225 lbs)
DIET: More than 200 types of plants: fruits, stems, flowers, shoots, bulbs, bark, leaves, pith, as well as invertebrates such as termites and ants; seasonal frugivores.
GESTATION: 250-285 days
ESTRAL PERIOD Cycles every 32 days
SEXUAL MATURITY:
MALE 11 years
FEMALE 6.5 years
LIFE SPAN: 40 years in zoological setting; wild studies of longevity have only been going on for 10 years, so far life span is inconclusive.
RANGE: African countries of Cameroon, Peoples Republic of Congo, Gabon, Central African Republic, and Equatorial Guinea
HABITAT: Tropical forests, swamp forests, clearings and forest edges
POPULATION: GLOBAL Unknown
STATUS: IUCN Not listed
CITES Appendix I
USFWS Endangered

FUN FACTS

1. The intimidating chest-beating charge of a male gorilla is usually a bluff to scare off intruders while the rest of his band disappears into the forest. However, it is also used in play as well.
2. Wild gorillas are difficult to study because they are shy, secretive inhabitants of densely vegetated tropical forests.
3. The huge silverback is a tolerant father who baby-sits for his offspring so the females can forage without the hindrance of playful young.
4. During the early weeks, a newborn gorilla is clutched belly-to-belly (ventral) for close contact until it develops the strength and coordination to cling onto its mother's back (dorsal) hair at about two months.
5. The differences between monkeys and apes are easy to see once you know what to look for. Apes do not have a tail and are generally larger than most other primates. They have a more upright body posture as well. Apes rely more on vision than on smell and have a short broad nose rather than a snout, as Old World monkeys do. Apes have a larger brain relative to the body size than other primates do.
6. For more information about gorillas, explore the GORILLA INFO BOOK.

ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION

Like the other apes, gorillas feed on seasonal fruits and disperse seeds in their dung as they travel from region to region. Because of new plant growth that occurs in bright sunlight, gorillas like to forage in areas cleared by elephants, storms, and even people. They leave behind seeds that generate new growth.

There are only five subspecies of gorilla left in the wild. Habitat loss and poaching are the main causes behind gorilla deaths.

Mbeli Bai Gorilla Study:
Busch Gardens is the primary financial support for this behavioral and ecological study on lowland gorillas which is part of the Noubale-Ndoki Project supported by Wildlife Conservation Society in Northern Congo

Busch Gardens continues to support the Mbeli Bai study of western lowland gorillas being conducted in the remote region of the Nouabale-Ndoki National Park in Africa's northern Congo. Coordinated by the Wildlife Conservation Society and supervised by project director Michael Fay, the study's focus on the rarely seen ecology and social behavior of the lowland gorilla is resulting in ground-breaking data on this fascinating and endangered species.

Studying the lowland gorilla in its natural surroundings is helping provide insights into developing more effective conservation strategies for preserving both the species and its environment. Acquiring such elusive data will also contribute to designing high-quality zoological environments like Busch Gardens' award-winning Myombe Reserve: The Great Ape Domain.

As the project enters its third year, data collection is being extended to identify more specific social behaviors of lowland gorillas - both groups and individuals - and their interaction with their environment. Research includes social behaviors, non vocal and gesture-based communication, range patterns as they relate to food sources and DNA "fingerprinting" which provides genetic descriptions of the Mbeli population.

To maximize their exposure to the remote conditions seen in Mbeli, researchers also are studying ecological behaviors of other species in the region when lowland gorillas are not present such as elephants, Congo clawless otters and black and white Colobus monkeys.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Dixson, A. F. 1981. The Natural History of the Gorilla. Columbia Univ. Press, New York.

Estes, D. 1992. Behavior guide to African mammals. Univ. Of California Press, Berkley.

Fossey, Dian. 1983. Gorillas in the Mist. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston.

Hoff, Michael P., and Terry L. Maple. 1982. Gorilla Behavior. Van Nostrand Reinhold, New Jersey.

Tuttle, Russell, H. 1986. Apes of the World. Noyes Publication, New Jersey.

Bushmeat Crisis Task Force. www.bushmeat.org

Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. www.deathstar.rutgers.edu/projects/gorilla/gorilla.html

Great Ape Project. www.envirolink.org/arrs/gap/gaphome.html

International Primate Protection League. www.sims.net/organizations/ippl/ippl.html