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128

mountain gorilla

OLogy Series
animal
card
128

mountain gorilla

OLogy Series
animal

The mountain gorilla lives high up in the forests of east central Africa. These gentle giants of the African forests have shorter arms and legs than other gorilla species and thicker coats of hair that help keep them warm during cold mountain nights. Many have lost their lives due to illegal hunting and habitat destruction.

A Mountain Gorilla's Best Friend
Dian Fossey was one of the many researchers who fought to help save the mountain gorilla. In 1963, after reading a book about mountain gorillas, Fossey traveled to Africa to see these animals up close. She began an 18-year study of these gorillas. To gain the acceptance of the gorillas, Fossey imitated their habits and sounds. She gave each individual gorilla a name and kept notes on its behavior. Fossey grew to especially love a gorilla she named Digit. She played with Digit and watched him grow to adulthood. When Digit and some of the mountain gorillas were later killed, Fossey focused on protecting the animals from poachers. She was mysteriously murdered in 1985 at her camp in Rwanda. For more about her fascinating life, check out the book and movie entitled Gorillas in the Mist.

Mountain gorillas as well as other gorilla species are known to be social animals. This means that they spend lots of time:

at jungle parties

in groups of five or more

playing with other animals in the forest

Are you right?

Correct!

Gorillas live in families just like people do. Their family groups may contain more than thirty-five gorillas but typically only have six per family. These groups are usually headed by the biggest male gorilla, called the silverback.

Gorillas sometimes show affection for one another by:

grooming each other

kissing each other

taking walks through the forest together

Are you right?

Correct!

Instead of going to the local primate salon for a shampoo, gorillas do all the work themselves. Grooming is a way for primates to show affection for each other. They also groom to keep clean by picking itchy bugs off their furry coats.

Gorillas are very mean and attack people without warning.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Contrary to their bad reputation, gorillas shy away from human contact and will attack only in self-defense. Gorillas are shy and more likely to hide from people than attack them.

Scientific name: Gorilla beringei beringei
Size: 5 to 6 feet tall Weight: 300 to 450 pounds
Diet: vegetarian diet of leaves and plants
Habitat: the mountain forests of Rwanda, Zaire, and Uganda in Africa
Characteristics: thick black hair for warmth; largest living primates in the world
Threats: hunting, poaching, and habitat destruction

Image credits: courtesy of AMNH Department of Library Services #1636.