The "gentle giants"
Diet: Omnivorous, but predominantly herbivorous, with variations between species and seasonality. More than 80% of ingested food is leaves, buds and stems, followed by fruits and small insects.
Habitat: Equatorial secondary forests in west-central and east-central Africa.
Largest of the great apes, gorillas are the “gentle giants” and demonstrate many behavioral similarities with humans, such as displaying joy and sadness. We share about 98.3% of our genetic load with them, making them our closest evolutionary relatives after chimpanzees and bonobos.
Gorillas are classified in the genus Gorilla and there are two identified species: the Western Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) and the Eastern Gorilla (Gorilla beringei). They each have two subspecies, known as Western Lowland Gorilla and Cross River Gorilla (Western, Lowland) and Mountain Gorilla and Grauer’s Gorilla (Eastern, Highland).
They live in relatively small family units, ranging from 5 to 20 or 30 individuals, exceptionally reaching 50 or 60 members. Everything revolves around the dominant male, who is a silverback. If they have other silverbacks, they assume roles lower in the hierarchy. The leader has a strong bond with several females, being the basis of the social organization of the group.
Another striking feature is the low birth rate of gorillas. After the female begins to reproduce, she usually gives birth to only one baby, with intervals between 4 to 6 years, approximately the time that the young live with their mothers. This makes recovery in a situation of population decline very difficult.
According to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List, the two gorilla species are classified as “Critically em Perigo” (Critically Endangered). Although some evidence of recovery has been recorded in recent years, the population in the wild is still declining. The main threats are the destruction of their habitat (urban development, global warming and economic activities) and poaching for illegal activities.
The gorilla Koko (1971-2018) became very famous for demonstrating her intelligence and sensitivity. Born in a zoo in the United States, Koko was rejected by her mother and then began to be accompanied by researchers. She learned American Sign Language (equivalent to LIBRAS in Brazil) and had the ability to put together about 1000 different words to communicate with humans. He also loved taking care of kittens, even naming them.