Gorilla

The apes occupy a special place in man's mind. The chimpanzee is regarded with affection but the gorilla is shrouded with fear. Why? The elephant is larger, the tiger more dangerous, and, from the point of view of health and economic factors, the rat is considerably greater threat to man's existence. Yet none of these inspires the almost supernatural dread and awe that the gorilla does. The gorilla has grown into King Kong, a name synonymous with brute force. The gorilla is everyone's favorite monster and scapegoat.

The idea that the gorilla is a ferocious ogre dies hard. Part of the myth of the hairy humanoid is that it should be terrible. With some reluctance the public now seems to be giving up the belief in the monster that drives off elephants with clubs, carries off native women and strangles native men, and kills leopards with a single blow. With disappointment it learns to accept evidence that even a gorilla can occasionally be killed by a leopard>.

Gorillas share many of the same emotions as man; they are subject to the same stresses, and react similarly to fear. They can be loving and gentle; they desperately need affection and will pine and die if the one they regard as "mother" goes away; they love to show off, take advantage of people, laugh, cry, and temper tantrums.

Until recently, gorillas were split into two subspecies, the Western (or Lowland or Coast) gorilla (Pan gorilla gorilla), and the Eastern or Mountain gorilla, Pan gorilla beringei. The two differ in many features. The Mountain gorilla is much blacker in color, with very long hair as it lives at high altitudes; it has shorter arms and slightly shorter legs, broader hands and feet, with a big toe which is brought more into line with other toes (very like that in man's foot), and even larger jaws and teeth. The Mountain gorilla lives at high altitudes in the Virunga volcanoes, on the Congo-Uganda-Rwanda border north of Lake Kivu, and nearly a thousand miles to the east of the nearest Western gorillas.

Gorilla

It is now recognized that the question is not quite so clearcut. Living near to the Mountain gorilla but at lower altitudes is a distinct population which can be called the Eastern Lowland gorilla. In form it is rather intermediate between the two and has been recognized as a third subspecies, named Pan gorilla graueri. It is less jet black than the Mountain gorilla and lacks the long silky hair. It can be distinguished from both the others by its long narrow face.

Habitat

All gorillas live in a few heavily forested ares in Africa. Scientists have divided them into three groups. Most of the gorillas you seen in zoos and museaums are western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). As many as a hundred thousand live in the tropical rain forests of west Africa. Fully grown western lowland gorillas vary in size from one to another.

Gorilla

The eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) lives in the rain forests of central Africa. There are fewer than two dozen eastern lowland gorillas living in captivity and probably only several thousand living in the wild today. They are a bit larger than their western relatives and they have darker hair color and slightly longer jaws and teeth.

Gorillas are almost completely terrestrial. Youngsters and females do venture into the trees at night, where they sleep in foliage nests; but the heavy males build nests on the ground becasue their large size precludes much arboreal activity.



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The gorilla is the largest and heaviest of the primates; the head is especially large, and it has highly developed chest muscles. An adult male can weigh 500 pounds (220kg); females are smaller.

Feeding

They are mainly vegetarian, though they will take small invertebrates when they find them, and being large animals they require a considerable food intake. Gorillas live on bamboo shoots, wild celery and the buds of mountain trees. Heavy and frequent rain keep these plants juicy with sap, making it unnecessary for the apes to seek water at streams or pools. The mountain bamboo grows in thick patches laced together by creeping vines into a formidable barrier against man. In their constant travels, gorillas fashion tunnels through this tangled jungle and often lurk in these dark trails. The gorilla is really retiring, almost shy, and wishes to avoid contact with man.

Behavior

Social groups are generally based upon a single mature "silverback" male with a number of immature males and mature females and youngsters. Newly mature males may be forced to leave the group and stay solitary until they can get together a group of females of their own.

The lone male gorillas travel over very wide distances. When they join a troop they travel with it for as long as a year, or even more. They wander alone, not in groups; some may never join a troop, others seem to have their favorite troops that they return to again abd again.

Not all wandering males are completely adult: some still have black backs. Some loners are accompanied by an infant or juvenile. Perhaps, this is how new groups are started. A troop does not have a territory, that is, there is no area exclusive to itself which it defends against intruders. Its wanderings are, however, restricted to a certain area, different parts of which it regularly visits; but the whole area is amicably shared with others. Such an area is called a home range.

Reproduction

Gorilla

All female and young gorillas live in a social groups. To protect each troop, and serve as its leader, there is a single fully adult, silverback male. Other adult males wander alone.

Relations within a gorilla troop are peaceful, without the continual threatening and scrapping that goes in some other Primate societies, such as resus monkeys and baboons. Within the troop, there is a rank order just as in a baboon troop; but it is not as rigid nor as all-pervasive. All silverbacks are dominant and have a linear hierarchy among themselves when there are loners attached to the troop.

Among the females, rank order is poorly marked, except that a female with an infant assumes a temporary high status.

Gorilla

Almost invariably gorillas have only one young at a birth. The newborn gorilla is a flesh-colored, slightly greyish without much hair except on the top of the head; but the hair grows quickly, especially on the back - the chest and belly remain almost bare for quite a long time. The baby gorilla develops a white tuft on the rump which is not lost until the fourth year.

At birth, the baby gorilla weighs about 3.5-5.25 lbs, less than a human baby. During the first week a little weight is lost, but after that it is gained rapidly.




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