California / North America / Pic of the Week / Southwestern USA

“Pic of the Week”, February 23, 2017: Western Gorillas

San Diego Zoo Safari (121)

While gorillas are the largest of the great apes, the western (lowland) gorillas are the smallest and least endangered of this subspecies.  Native to the Congo River Basin, they live in lowland tropical and swamp forests.  They are quiet, peaceful animals whose existence is threatened by deforestation and poaching.

Male gorillas are up to 1.55 meters tall and weigh up to 157 kg; females are 1.35 meters and weigh up to 80 kg.  They  are mainly herbivores, feasting on leaves and fruit but occasionally eating ants, worms and caterpillars.  Western gorillas are nomadic, wandering in groups of up to 30 individuals in search of food.  Each band is lead by a dominant “silverback” male ( so called because of a silver patch of hair on their otherwise dark coat).  In case of danger, the silverback protects the group by making aggressive threatening advances on the intruder.

Western gorillas have a gestation period of about 8.5 months and usually one infant is born weighing roughly 2 kg.  We were lucky enough to see a mother and her newborn at the zoo (see photos below).  Her care for the infant was impressive.  The mother looks after young gorillas for 3-6 years before they are old enough to migrate to different troops.

I’m a fan of zoos because they give people a chance to study animals and become motivated to help protect them.  We studied these fascinating animals for almost a half hour and were amazed at how very human-like their behavior is.  Like us, gorillas have unique fingerprints (and even unique noseprints).

(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, right arrow to advance)

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