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We present to you the WESTERN LOWLAND GORILLAS!

 

Quick Facts

Type: Mammal                                                       Diet: Omnivore (mostly Vegetarian)

Average life span in the wild: 35 years       Size: Standing height, 4 to 6 ft (1.2 to 1.8 m)

Weight: 150 to 400 lbs (68 to 181 kg)               Group name: Troop

Size: Size is relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man

Physical Descriptions

Western lowland gorillas have a brownish-grey coat with a red or auburn crest. Adult males have a patch of whitish hair that extends onto the thighs (silverbacks) and grades into the black body color. They are smaller and lighter than the other gorilla subspecies, with short hair, a wider skull and longer arms. There is also a more pronounced difference between the sexes, with females being almost half the size of silverbacks (adult males).

Location and Distribution

The western lowland gorilla is the most widespread and numerous of the four gorilla subspecies. The western lowland gorilla occurs in the dense and remote rainforests of central Africa, specifically in lowland forest and swamp forest from sea level to about 1,600m. Though they are endangered, they remain far more common than their relatives, the mountain gorillas. They live in heavy rain forests, and it is difficult for scientists to accurately estimate how many survive in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their total population is thought to number up to 100,000 individuals. In some areas they occur in surprisingly high densities – like in remote swamps or areas with dense leafy growth where they’ve been recorded at exceptionally high densities of almost 10 individuals per square kilometer. The forests of Congo (Brazzaville) are currently considered to harbour the major population of western lowland gorillas, which are protected by the remoteness of the large, swampy forest areas.

Social Structures and general activities

Gorillas can climb trees, but are usually found on the ground in communities (troops) of up to 30 individuals. These troops are organized according to fascinating social structures. Troops are led by one dominant, older adult male, often called a silverback because of the swath of silver hair that adorns his otherwise dark fur. Troops also include several other young males, some females, and their offspring.

The leader organizes troop activities like eating, nesting in leaves, and moving about the group’s three-quarter- to 16-square-mile (2- to 40-square-kilometer) home range. Those who challenge this alpha male are apt to be cowed by impressive shows of physical power. He may stand upright, throw things, make aggressive charges, and pound his huge chest while barking out powerful hoots or unleashing a frightening roar. Despite these displays and the animals’ obvious physical power, gorillas are generally calm and nonaggressive unless they are disturbed. Gorillas are very intelligent and have been taught simple sign language in captivity. Like chimpanzees, gorillas have been observed using tools in the wild.

 

Feeding

In the thick forests of central and West Africa, troops find plentiful food for their vegetarian diet as they are mainly herbivores. They eat roots, shoots, fruit, wild celery, tree bark and pulp and also pith shoots and leaves. Fruits are an important component of western lowland gorillas’ diet and are consumed according to their seasonal availability. Over 100 fruit species have been recorded in their diet. In drier months, when fruits are scarce, gorillas supplement their diet with the leaves, bark and rotten wood.  They have also been known to eat termites and weaver ants.

Birth and Motherhood:

Western Lowland Gorilla female and juvenile

Female gorillas give birth to one infant after a pregnancy of nearly nine months. Unlike their powerful parents, newborns are tiny—weighing four pounds (two kilograms)—and able only to cling to their mothers’ fur. These infants ride on their mothers’ backs from the age of four months through the first two or three years of their lives. Young gorillas, from three to six years old, remind human observers of children. Much of their day is spent in play, climbing trees, chasing one another, and swinging from branches.

 

Threats to their existence

western lowland-gorilla_753_600x450

As mentioned before, the western lowland gorillas are endangered. In the wild, these primates are under siege by hunting and trade, habitat loss, forest degradation and diseases particularly Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever (Ebola). The forest loss from degradation, farming, grazing, and expanding human settlements is a twofold threat as it destroys gorilla habitat and brings hungry people who hunt gorillas for bushmeat.

 

 

Adapted from Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) and National Geographic

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