Everything you need to know about gorillas

Types of Gorillas

Eastern Gorilla

  • Eastern Lowland Gorilla
  • Mountain Gorilla

Western Gorilla

  • Cross River Gorillas
  • Western Lowland Gorillas


Among the great Apes Family, the gorilla is the largest of all, this family includes the chimpanzee and orangutan as well, and can be divided into four subspecies:

Western Lowland Gorilla (gorilla gorilla gorilla); these type of gorillas are mostly seen in zoos. As of 2008, there were an estimated 125,000 western lowland gorillas living in Africa.

Cross River Gorilla (gorilla gorilla diehli); the rarest of all types, with only 300 left in the wild. They are found in the border area between Cameroon and Nigeria.

Eastern Lowland Gorilla (gorilla gorilla graueri); about 5,000 live in the wild. They can be found in the eastern Congolese rain forest.

Mountain Gorilla (gorilla gorilla beringei); the most endangered of all with only about 900 remaining. They are living in the afro montane forests in northwest Rwanda, southwest Uganda and eastern DRC.

All gorilla types are considered critically endangered. But the mountain gorilla is the most endangered species of the great apes family on earth. And because they can’t survive in captivity, you will never see a mountain gorilla in the zoo.

The mountain gorillas live in the almost impenetrable parts of the tropical forests in Central Africa. The entire world’s population is spread out over only two different places. Approximately half of the individuals inhabit the slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes, stretching out from the border area in Congo to Rwanda. The other half are found in Bwindi National Park in Uganda, covering an area of about 330 sq kms.


Gorillas live in groups consisting of about 7 individuals up to 35 members. Usually there is one leading dominant male, accompanied by several females with their young juvenile and babies.

At birth of a baby gorilla it can weighs on average about 4 pounds (1.8 kg) this is about half a weight of a newborn human baby. However, babies develop twice as fast. Within 40 weeks a gorilla baby is able to walk and reaching 3 years it gradually becomes independent. They are about 1.20 meter tall and weigh almost 70 kg at 6 years. It’s at this age that a female gorilla matures, even though they continue gaining more weight for about the next 4 years. For males, they do not reach maturity until they are 10 years old. When their black back starts turning into grey/Silver it is time for them to leave the family group. They wander alone or join other males for some time, before attracting females who will join them and finally form their own family.

Gorillas are slow at reproduction; hence their population growth is very low. Gestation period is just about 8.5 months and gorilla mothers (black backs) give birth to a baby once every 4 years. Unluckily at least 30% don’t survive their first year because of diseases and accidents. Another cause of death among the baby gorillas is when their father dies and another silverback assumes leadership of the family. This new male normally kills all the babies of his predecessor; make safe his own genes in the posterity.


Even though the chimpanzee is our closest cousin on earth, the gorilla resembles us in even more aspects. Their hands and feet are human like, they spend much of their time on ground and consequently are better able to walk. In fact, research has it that Gorillas share 98% of human DNA!

Gorillas express high social qualities, relationships within the family are very important. They convey their feelings, ranging from loving and hating to shame and jealousy, by about 20 distinct vocalisations, all communicate different meaning. Besides thumping on their chests or on the ground is a regular form of communication as well. It is generally the silverback or the leader who does this in order to show his power and to threaten others.
antagonism is rarely seen in gorilla families. Despite their exciting looks, they are exceptionally gentle and peace loving. In cases of danger they stand out for each other and defend the weaker ones. Serious clashes only may occur when two leaders of different families meet each other.


The pecking order is clear and very important within each gorilla family. The Male dominant also called a silverback assumes and enjoys the highest rank and the adult females the black back rule over the younger ones. Just like other species in the animal world, gorilla males achieve the high ranking because of their size. A fully grown Male mountain gorillas weighs up to about 200 kg (500 pounds) and can reach 1.70 meter when standing upright. Despite their strength they also have to prove their experience and abilities. It is their duty to protect their family from threats or danger and intruders.

It is not difficult to figure out where the name silverback comes from. At about the age of 12 years, males steadily develop light grey hair on their back, giving them ‘silver back’ and common for males.