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Eastern Gorilla Fact File

Gorilla beringei

Credit: Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Weight

110-275kg

(240-605lbs)

Length

1.3-1.9m

(4.25-6.25ft)

Lifespan

Wild 40 years

Captive 40 years

Diet

Herbivores

Leaves, Shoots

Conservation Status

IUCN

Critically Endangered

The World's Largest Primate!

Eastern gorillas are recognized as the world's largest primate. Two subspecies are recorded known as the mountain gorilla and Grauer's gorilla. Grauer's gorilla is the larger of the two.

These animals are equipped with a thick coat which helps to keep them warm when they are at heights within the mountains.

This species is almost exclusively herbivorous. They will feed on leaves, shoots, fungi and other plant matter. During two periods of the year they will gorge themselves on bamboo.

They are incredibly threatened by habitat loss, hunting, civil unrest and collection for the pet trade.

Read on to learn more about these magnificent mammals.

Appearance

What does the Eastern Gorilla look like?

These animals are covered by a thick coat of bluish-black fur. The face is bare of fur showing off the black skin.

They have a robust body. This includes muscular arms and a large head with significant canine teeth.

Their eyes are large with a brown iris and a black pupil.

Males are significantly larger than females and noticeable due to the streak of grey fur present on the back. An average male will weigh 200-275kg (440-605lbs) compared to 110-140kg (240-300lbs) for the females.

An average length for this species is between 1.3 and 1.9m (4.25 to 6.25ft) long. They are the largest primate on Earth.

Adaptations

How does the Eastern Gorilla survive in its habitat?


Their long fur is an adaptation which will help to protect them from the freezing temperatures which are present in their mountainous habitat.

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Diet

What does the Eastern Gorilla eat?

Eastern gorillas are herbivores. They enjoy a wide diet including leaves, shoots, stems, bamboo, fruit, bark and fungi. On occasion they have been seen to consume ants having to be quick before they are bitten.

Twice a year bamboo will come in to season and during this period they will gorge themselves almost exclusively on this food source.

These animals consume large amounts of succulent vegetation which they will use to fulfill most of their water requirements.

Learn more about the Eastern Gorilla in this video from CBS on YouTube

Range

Where do you find the Eastern Gorilla?

Africa is the native home of the eastern gorilla. Here they can be found in the following countries – The Democratic Republic of the Congo; Rwanda and Uganda.

Habitat

Where can the Eastern Gorilla survive?

These animals are found in forest habitats including mature and secondary forest, swamps and peat bogs.

This species can be found at high elevations.

Eastern Gorilla (Gorilla beringei)

Credit: Public Domain

Reproduction

How does the Eastern Gorilla produce its young?

Most young within the group will be fathered by the dominant silverback within the group. After they have mated once it is rare for a female to leave the group unless the dominant individual passes.

Females will initiate mating by approaching the male cautiously.

Most females give birth to a single infant though twins are also recorded. These are born after a 9 month gestation period.

Females produce only two or three young during their lifetime.

Young may remain with their mother for up to four years after she welcomes her next offspring.

Males will become sexually mature at 8-12 years old. Full adult size may not be reached till 15 years old. Females average 10 years old when they first give birth.

Behavior

What does the Eastern Gorilla do during its day?

Gorillas live in family groups which are headed by a single silverback male. He controls several females and their offspring. At their largest groups of up to 40 individuals have been observed.

On rare occasions a father-son or brother-brother pair will command control over a group together.

Bonds will be reinforced through grooming between members of the troop.

Males are highly defensive over the territory which their family inhabit. Initially he barks before beginning to hoot. If this is unsuccessful he will beat his chest before beginning to charge and roar at the threat.

These animals are active by day. At dusk the group will form nests in which they will spend the night asleep. These nests are crude and formed of leaves. Some individuals form their nest in the trees but most are on the ground.

They are highly vocal making a range of calls to communicate with one another. A total of 25 vocalizations have been recorded from this species.

When stressed males emit a strong smell from glands on the armpits which can be used to communicate with others.

Eastern Gorilla (Gorilla beringei)

Credit: Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Predators and Threats

What stops the Eastern Gorilla from surviving and thriving?

This species will face few predators in the wild. Occasionally one may be taken by a leopard.

Eastern gorillas are critically endangered with a total estimated population of just 2,600 mature individuals.

The mountain gorilla population is highly fragmented with populations separated by areas of human settlement and farmland.

This species is highly threatened across its range. The largest threat to the Grauer's gorilla subspecies is poaching despite this being illegal in all range states. Hunting occurs for food and to supply the trade for pet gorillas which is mainly focused on juvenile animals.

Increasingly their habitat is being destroyed for conversion to agricultural and human settlements.

Their habitat has been increasingly impacted by civil unrest. They are also impacted by disease and increasing tourism creates a larger risk of transfer of disease to human populations.

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Quick facts

Two subspecies of the eastern gorilla are recognized. These are Grauer's gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) and the Mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei).

The eastern gorilla is the world's largest primate.

In captivity this species has been taught to use sign language.

A mountain gorilla population in Virunga National Park is the most studied gorilla population. They were first studied in 1967 and were brought to prominence through the work of Dian Fossey.

Eastern Gorilla (Gorilla beringei)

Credit: Public Domain

References

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Jackson, T. and Chinery, M., 2012. The illustrated encyclopedia of animals of the world. London: Southwater.

Plumptre, A., Robbins, M.M. & Williamson, E.A. 2019. Gorilla beringeiThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T39994A115576640. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-1.RLTS.T39994A115576640.en. Accessed on 16 January 2022.

EDGE of Existence. 2022. Eastern Gorilla – EDGE of Existence. [online] Available at: <http://www.edgeofexistence.org/species/eastern-gorilla/> [Accessed 16 January 2022].

 Lindsley, T. and A. Sorin 2001. "Gorilla beringei" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed January 16, 2022 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Gorilla_beringei/

New England Primate Conservancy. 2022. Grauer's Gorilla. [online] Available at: <https://www.neprimateconservancy.org/grauers-gorilla.html> [Accessed 16 January 2022].

African Wildlife Foundation. 2022. Mountain Gorilla. [online] Available at: <https://www.awf.org/wildlife-conservation/mountain-gorilla> [Accessed 16 January 2022].

Vanishing Treasures. 2022. Mountain Gorilla – Vanishing Treasures. [online] Available at: <https://vanishingtreasures.org/portfolio/mountain-gorilla/> [Accessed 16 January 2022].

Primate-sg.org. 2022. Primates-SG – Eastern Gorillas. [online] Available at: <http://www.primate-sg.org/eastern_gorillas/> [Accessed 16 January 2022].

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