The world’s largest primates have their own day, September 24th. Gorillas are larger on average than humans and maybe that’s one of the reasons they’re larger than life in our imaginations and on screen in movies like Tarzan and King Kong and Gorillas in the Mist.
Gorillas are both imposing and inspiring. Did you know…
- Gorillas live in tropical and sub-tropical middle Africa. Two species, Western and Eastern, are separated by the Congo River, with habitats ranging in elevation from mountain-top cloud forests to swamps and marshes at sea level.
- Male gorillas can grow to over 6 feet tall, with a chest more than 6 feet around, an arm span nearing 9 feet, and weighing in at over 500 pounds of sheer muscle, all on a diet of vegetation, fruit and insects! Females are about half the size of males.
- They are in some ways more closely related to humans than even our closest primate relatives, the chimpanzees. We share up to 99% of our DNA with gorillas.
- Gorillas are highly intelligent. They can use tools for hunting and gathering food and nest building. They have over two dozen ‘vocalisations’ to communicate with each other, have been shown to grieve and laugh and lead ‘rich emotional lives’, show individual color preferences, and famously, Koko the gorilla learned to communicate with humans with sign language.
- Gorillas live in groups called ‘troops’ of about 3 dozen, headed and protected by a single, mature male called a ‘silverback’ after the patch of silver that appears on the backs of males over 12 years old. Silverbacks also have large canine teeth that can cause deep gaping wounds. If the troop is attacked by leopards, humans or other gorillas, a single silverback will protect the group even at the cost of his own life.
- Gorillas are knuckle walkers, but occasionally walk upright on two feet. That is part of a silverback’s unique, ritualized ‘charge display’, along with throwing branches, chest beating and sideways running, intended to intimidate while avoiding violence.
- Gorillas are listed as Critically Endangered, especially Eastern mountain gorillas, with fewer than 1000 remaining in the wild and none in zoos. Habitat destruction for farming and mining, commercial poaching, and disease including Ebola mean gorillas are facing extinction.
- American primatologist Dian Fossey’s groundbreaking work studying gorillas in Rwanda and championing their protection was the subject of her book Gorillas in the Mist. Her life among the gorillas and her brutal 1985 murder, likely by poachers opposed to her conservation efforts, are immortalized in the 1988 film by the same name.
World Gorilla Day
September 24th is the day that Dian Fossey established Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda in 1967. Now, the annual World Gorilla day is a day to take action to protect gorillas in the wild for future generations.
Here are 3 things you can do:
- Recycle your electronics. Mobile phones, tablets and laptops contain coltan, which is mined from gorilla forest habitat and contributes to its destruction. You can help gorilla conservation by recycling your devices so the coltan can be re-used.
- Support gorilla conservation through organizations like the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.
- Book an ethical trip to encounter gorillas in Africa. Responsible travel companies ensure your trip doesn’t harm or interfere with gorillas. Plus, ethical tourism revenues support conservation efforts directly, and by employing members of the local human community, create an economic reason to support gorilla conservation.
Travel agents can identify the most responsible as well as thrilling gorilla travel experiences for you.
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