10 great gorilla facts!
Discover these incredible, gentle giants of the forest…
Ready to learn about some amazing apes, gang? Then join National Geographic Kids as we explore the wonderful world of gorillas, with our top ten gorilla facts…
1. There are two species of gorilla: eastern and western
Each species splits into two groups, known as subspecies. The four gorilla subspecies are eastern lowland gorillas, eastern mountain gorillas, western lowland gorillas, and western cross river gorillas!
WEIRD BUT TRUE!
All wild gorillas live in central Africa, in an area split by a vast rainforest. One side has western gorillas, while the other has eastern!
2. Gorillas are very social animals, who live together in groups
Gorillas spend a lot of time moving around their habitat in family groups known as ‘troops’. Each troop can contain up to 30 gorillas! This usually includes a dominant male, several females, and their young offspring.
3. Gorillas can weigh over 200kg and stand as tall as an average human!
Gorillas are mostly herbivores, which means they only eat plants – up to 30kg of them per day! However, some subspecies have been known to eat insects and snails, too.
4. Adult males are known as ‘silverbacks’
These powerful males can be more than 10 times stronger than an average human – they can tear down banana trees, bend iron bars and bite with more power than a lion! For the most part, though, they’re gentle giants, only using their full strength when they feel threatened.
5. Gorillas are very clever, and have been recorded making and using tools!
Scientists have spotted wild gorillas using sticks to work out the depth of rivers and streams, making ladders from bamboo to help baby gorillas reach the treetops, and even fashioning ‘cutlery‘ from twigs – helping them to scoop up and snack on stinging insects! Gorillas can live up to 40 years old, so they have lots of time to learn.
6. Gorilla noseprints are as unique as human fingerprints!
As a result, scientists can identify individual gorillas by paying close attention to the shape of their nose. Unique scars or marks on their faces help, too!
WEIRD BUT TRUE!
Amazingly, gorillas share a whopping 98% of their DNA with humans!
7. Primatologist Dr. Dian Fossey famously studied these incredible creatures
The scientist’s work with gorillas was revolutionary at the time. Like Dr. Jane Goodall‘s work with chimpanzees, Dian gave gorillas names and learnt about their personalities. Her work led her to become passionate about protecting gorillas from poaching.
8. A captive gorilla called ‘Koko’ learned sign language!
Hanabi-Ko, known as ‘Koko’, was a female western lowland gorilla. Over her lifetime, she learned over 1,000 signs and was able to understand more than 2,000 English words.
WEIRD BUT TRUE!
Koko created many beautiful paintings throughout her life. She even took a photograph of herself in a mirror in 1978 – one of the earliest animal selfies!
9. Sadly, gorillas are critically endangered
The biggest threat they face is habitat destruction, which leaves gorillas with fewer safe spaces to live. As their natural habitat declines, gorillas have to venture closer to areas where humans live, where they’re more likely to catch human diseases or fall victim to poaching.
10. However, conservation efforts ARE working!
One subspecies, the mountain gorilla, has recently seen a record population high! At the last count, 1,063 of these awesome apes were found in the wild. Yay!