WILDLIFE DISCOVERY : The Mountain Gorillas

Gorillas are large, quiet and gentle apes that live in Africa. Although gorillas are frequently portrayed as aggressive and dangerous killers, they are really shy, peaceful vegetarians. Because of massive loss of habitat, these majestic primates are in great danger of going extinct.

Gorillas are large, quiet and gentle apes that live in Africa. Although gorillas are frequently portrayed as aggressive and dangerous killers, they are really shy, peaceful vegetarians.

Because of massive loss of habitat, these majestic primates are in great danger of going extinct.

Gorillas have very long arms (the arms are longer than the legs), and a short, bulky body with a wide chest. Their hands are very much like ours; they have five fingers, including an opposable thumb.

Their feet have five toes, including an opposable big toe. Gorillas can grasp things with both their hands and their feet.

Their bodies are covered with brownish hair on most of their body (except their fingers, palms, face, armpits, and bottoms of their feet).

Gorillas have a very large head with a bulging forehead, a crest on top (it is called the sagittal crest, and is larger on male gorillas), tiny ears, and small, dark-brown eyes.

Gorillas have no tail. Each gorilla has a unique nose print (like humans have unique fingerprints).

Gorillas have senses very similar to ours, including hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch.

Male gorillas are much larger than the females, and are almost twice as heavy. Adult male gorillas are called silverbacks because they have a saddle-shaped patch of silver hair on their backs after they are about 12 years of age.

These animals are herbivores because they eat mostly plant material. They eat leaves, fruit, seeds, tree bark, plant bulbs, tender plant shoots, and flowers. Occasionally, gorillas supplement their diet with termites and ants.

Gorillas rarely drink water; the water contained in their diet is apparently enough to sustain them.

Interestingly, some gorillas have been taught sign language by people; they have learned how to form simple sentences and communicate with people.

Female gorillas get pregnant for about 8 to 9 and a half months and can have about 3 babies in their lifetime.

Mothers carefully nurture their young and baby gorillas learn to crawl at about 2 months and can walk before they are 9 months old (much earlier than humans).

Baby gorillas feed on mother’s milk for the first two and a half years and when they are weaned, gorillas begin to build their own sleeping nests out of vegetation. When the young mature, they go off and join or form another band.

Each evening, gorillas construct a “nest” for the night in which they will curl up and sleep. These bowl-shaped nests are made out of leaves and other plant material. Nests are only shared by a mother and her nursing offspring.

Gorillas knuckle-walk using both their legs and their long arms; they rarely walk using only their legs. They can climb trees, but do not do so very often. Gorillas cannot swim.

Gorillas have a lifespan of about 50 years in captivity; in the wild its only about 35 years. They live in tropical rain forests, wet lowland forests, swamps, and abandoned fields.

There are only about 600 mountain gorillas left and these are mainly found in the Great Virunga Massive that covers parts of Rwanda, DR Congo and Uganda. Mountain gorillas are on the verge of extinction.

Ends

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