Gorillas are apes.
They are shy and friendly.
Gorillas live in forests in Africa.
Gorillas eat fruit and leaves.
A female gorilla feeds her baby milk.
Gorillas are primates, the group of mammals that include monkeys, lemurs, apes and humans. Gorillas are apes. The gorilla is the largest of all the apes. A male gorilla can grow to be 1.8 metres tall and weigh up to 200 kilograms. Females are shorter and lighter than the males.
Habitat and Distribution (where they are found)
Gorillas live in the rain forests of Africa. There are lowland gorillas and mountain gorillas.
The Western Lowland gorillas live in the forests of western Africa.
The Eastern Lowland gorillas live in the lowlands of eastern Congo.
The Mountain gorillas live in Rwanda and in the mountain forests of Uganda.
Appearance and Behaviours
A gorilla's body is covered with black or brown hair. There is no hair on the face, chest, on the palms of the hands, or on the soles of the feet.
When male gorillas are about 10 years old, the hair on the lower part of their backs turns silver-grey, and then they are known as silverbacks.
Gorillas look fierce, but they are actually shy, friendly animals. A gorilla will not hurt a human unless it is attacked or it feels afraid. When a gorilla wants to frighten an enemy it stands up on its legs and slaps its hands against its chest to make a loud noise to scare away the enemy. The male gorilla roars too.
Gorillas walk along the ground on all fours. Their arms are longer than their back legs. The feet are flat on the ground and the gorilla uses the knuckles of its hands to support the upper part of its body as it walks. Gorillas usually stay on the ground, but sometimes they climb into trees to sleep or eat.
Gorillas live in groups of up to 30. A group of gorillas is called a troop. In the troop there are adult males, adult females and several young gorillas. One adult male silverback leads the group. He decides when it is time for the group to get up in the morning, where to wander in the forest, and when it is time to rest. The silverback also protects the group from danger.
A new troop forms when one or more females join an adult male. Each troop has its own home territory, an area from 5 to 39 square kilometres. Troops of gorillas may live in the same area of a forest but the troops usually keep out of each other's way.
Gorillas eat leaves, buds, bark, and fruits. A large male gorilla may eat as much as 27 kilograms of food each day. They eat in the morning, and in the afternoon they rest and sleep. Then, in the late afternoon or just before dark they eat again. At night time gorillas build nests with branches and leaves on the ground or in trees. Each gorilla builds its own nest. Baby gorillas sleep with their mothers. Gorillas never spend more than one night in the same place.
Female gorillas can mate when they are about 8 years old, and males when they are 12 years old. After mating, the female is pregnant for about 9 months. The baby gorilla weighs about 2 kilograms when it is born. At first the female carries her baby in her arms. The baby sucks milk from its mother's breast. After about three months, the baby rides on its mother's back, holding onto her long hair. By the age of 3 months the baby is able to crawl, and by 5 months it can walk. The baby rides on its mother's back until it is almost 3 years old. The young gorilla stays with its mother until it is about three and a half years old.
Conservation Status and Threats
In the 2007 Red List of Threatened Species, Western Lowland gorillas are now classified as Critically Endangered. Mountain gorillas are Endangered.
Gorillas' main threat is people. People hunt gorillas for food, capture them and put them in zoos, and cut down their forests. The gorilla has become rare in many parts of Africa. Gorillas also suffer from many diseases spread by mosquitoes and ticks. They also catch cold and suffer from tooth decay. Western Lowland gorillas have been badly affected by an epidemic of a disease called ebola: about one third of the population has died from this disease, which also affects humans.
A mountain gorilla: a silverback male
Click here to find out about mountain gorillas
Click here to find out more about gorillas
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Gorilla (2006). [Online], Available: www.kidcyber.com.au
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Updated November 2012: copyright kidcyber