Mountain Gorillas Looks scary?
Ever since gorillas were discovered, people have thought of them as dangerous animals.
This is most likely because the majority of the first western people ever to see gorillas
were hunters. Or they have seen the infamous movie: King Kong. Truth is mountain
gorillas are generally only aggressive when provoked.
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International has been studying mountain gorillas for 40
years. It is the longest ongoing study of wild animals in the world. What I am learning
comes from the researchers and staff who have dedicated their lives to the preservation
and protection of these amazing creatures.
To learn more please visit their website at www.gorillafund.org
All living things are divided by scientists into groups. This allows people to organize and
study living things more specifically, which in turn increases our understanding and
Gorillas are apes, a family of animals that is part of a larger order or group called
primates. This group includes apes, monkeys, lemurs and bushbabies. The great apes-
gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos (very similar to chimps) and orangutans- are the most like
Lunchtime for a mountain gorilla.
The gorilla is the largest living primate. An adult male may weigh more than 400 lbs!
Adult females are generally about half that size. They will eat up to 50 lbs of food a day,
consisting of leaves, stems, roots and berries. They almost never drink water. They get
most of the water they need from eating plants. Recently I observed a gorilla sucking
water from a group of rolled up plant stems, like drinking water from several straws.
Gorillas are vegetarians, which means they only eat plants.
Like all apes, gorillas have hairy bodies, arms longer than their legs and no tails. So if
you see a tail, it’s a monkey. Like all primates, they have fingers that can grasp things,
eyes on the front instead of on the side of the head, and eyesight that allows them to
judge depth or the distance to an object.
A monkey or ape? Why?
The mountain gorilla is a subspecies of the group called gorilla. The other groups are
called; western lowland gorilla, eastern lowland gorilla and cross-river gorilla.
No mountain gorillas are found in zoos. The approximate 700 remaining mountain
gorillas only live in the national parks in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic
of the Congo (DRC).
Which continent do you find these countries?
All subspecies have slightly different behavior traits and appearances, but are similar
enough that they could breed between groups.
Why are they called silverbacks?
When the adult males reach maturity, between the ages of 10 to 13, the hair on the saddle
of their back turns silver. Like the male species of some birds that are very colorful,
scientists theorize the silver hair enhances their appearance to potential females. The
adult males also have long shaggy hair on their arms and a high head crest.
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund has been studying gorillas for 40 years. These wild
animals allow the researchers to get close because the scientists have earned the gorilla’s
trust. This is called habituation.
How do you think the researchers keep track of who’s who in the forest?
If you guessed the gorilla’s nose, you are right! Each nose shape is different. And since
they can’t take the fingerprints of wild animals, they study the shape of the nose to
identify the different gorillas. What do you think? Is your nose different than someone
Which one of these is not like the others?
1. Where do you find mountain gorillas?
2. What is one way to tell the difference between a monkey and an ape?
3. How big can a male mountain gorilla get?
4. What kind of food does a mountain gorilla eat and how much?
5. What is the name of the organization that studies the mountain gorillas?
6. What is one type of gorilla the Dian Fossey researchers have been studying and
how long have they been studying them?
7. Why do you think no mountain gorillas are found in zoos?
8. How do you think the researchers gained the trust of the gorillas?
9. How are the great apes same as humans and how are they different?
10. Why do you think it is important to help protect the mountain gorillas?
More information will be coming soon about mountain gorillas!
I also will be writing about my adventure to track the gorillas. What do you think it
would be like to track a wild mountain gorilla through the forests of Africa?
The Dean of Travel
To see and learn more visit my website at www.travel4life.org