5 facts about the mysterious mountain gorilla
Spotting a mountain gorilla has been a thing of grand wonder and intrigue for centuries. “King Kong,” “Mighty Joe Young,” “Tarzan,” “Planet of the Apes” and many more Hollywood flicks have centered on the majesty of the gorilla, yet this creature has become a tragically rare endangered animal over the years.
National Geographic reported that there are roughly 700 mountain gorillas left in the world. Roughly half of them live in the lush mountains of Africa in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Congo. While these powerful animals have been featured in some of the world’s most popular films, there are still many secrets regarding their lifestyles and behaviors. A full analysis of the mountain gorilla requires a careful tour of their habitat, but you may learn a thing or two with some fun facts.
Here are five about mountain gorillas.
1. They are lead by a dominant silverback
Mountain gorillas live by a particular social structure. Groups of gorillas are called either troops or bands each typically has around 30 of the creatures. While there may be several females, infants and younger gorillas, the troop is often lead by one older male gorilla – often referred to as a silverback because of the gray hair they have mixed into their fur. The silverback will bark and hoot as he structures the activities of the day, which often includes eating, nesting in leaves and moving within a home range of roughly 16 square miles.
2. The largest and most powerful primate
A male mountain gorilla can grow to be over 400 pounds in weight, yet it typically stands at a shorter height than humans. A silverback gorilla standing upright on its hind legs can reach around 5 feet 6 inches. However, they normally walk on all four legs and may only stand on the back legs while beating their chests or fighting with younger apes.
They may not be much larger than humans, but gorillas are far more powerful. While standardized tests of gorilla strength have not been conducted, researchers at SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment stated that a male’s upper body strength is roughly 6 times greater than that of a human being.
3. Gorillas are considered gentle giants
However, gorillas are often very docile and generally non-aggressive unless they are disturbed. This is why safari tracking expeditions for mountain gorillas are possible. Hiking through a dense jungle full of foliage that obstructs vision could make searching for more aggressive creatures risky, but searching for gorillas is often a safe and uncompromising exercise.
“Koko the gorilla knows over 1,000 words and signs and can even understand spoken English.”
4. Apes in captivity display incredible intelligence
Their great power is matched with surprising intellect. They have 12 distinct forms of communication within their troops, according to the International Gorilla Conservation Programme. These hoots, howls and barks are used to keep the band informed about individual whereabouts, show happiness, project dominance and more.
Gorillas in captivity have also managed to learn simple sign language. One such gorilla, named Koko, has been participating in conversations with individuals for decades, according to The Gorilla Foundation. She knows over 1,000 words and signs and can even understand spoken English.
5. You can help
While things may seem dire, there is a positive not for the mountain gorilla. All ape populations in Africa are believed to be decreasing with the exception of the mountain gorilla species, according to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. The population grew by around 26 percent after a census was taken in 2010, meaning slow gains are being achieved. The fund attributes the good news to collaboration among conservation institutions. Some of these organizations receive funding from park visitors and tourists.
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