Like human beings, Gorillas also form families or groups. Gorillas are social animals that usually form harems: One silverback male lives together with several adult females and their offspring. Gorillas live and move in family groups that can range in sizes from 2 to 30 or even to 40 but mostly in the groups of an average of 11. A dominant male leads and holds the position for years. They are at times referred to as mountain gorillas. Adult male mountain gorillas are called Silverbacks because of the silver saddle of hair on their backs. On top of the above, gorillas are almost closely related to humans with a share of 98.3 percent of their DNA. They are charismatic and intelligent animals a character trait with human beings.
Why Do Gorillas Live in Families?
Each gorilla family has a silverback as their leader who scares away other animals by standing upright on their hind legs, tearing up and throwing plants, drumming on the chest with their hands or fists. All this is done to protect members of the family. Silverback gorillas continually wander through their home ranges of 10 to 15 square miles, feeding and resting throughout the day. Since gorillas are nomadic, they build new nests each day at dusk, constructing them out of bent branches in a tree or of grasses on the ground. Silverback gorillas have long black hair and their thick, shaggy coats help to keep them warm in cold climates. Mountain gorillas have a stocky build, with a broad chest, long, muscular arms and wide feet and hands. Their arms are longer than their legs.
At about 14 years old, the hair in the saddle of their back turns white and hence they are known as ‘silverbacks’. Gorillas are quadrupedal, walking on the knuckles of their forelimbs and the soles of their feet. Male’s height is up to 1.7 m as they weight 160kg, female upto 1.5m and their weight is 90kg. Males leave their group at about 11 years of age yet when it comes to females over half of the members will leave their group.
Within mountain gorillas about 40% of groups contain several adult males who are closely related. Mountain gorilla males occasionally form all-male groups. The size of gorilla groups is very variable. An average gorilla family contains four to ten members. The biggest gorilla group known to date was found in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National park. It consisted of 65 gorilla members for a short period.
When the gorilla leader dies, another subordinate silverback male takes over the responsibilities, usually the son of the dead leader.
Below are some of the reasons why Gorillas form families:
For Security reasons – Gorillas stay together in groups to overpower enemies. Under the leadership of a mature male Gorilla known as silver back. Other Gorilla members attack the enemy as one.
Companion ship – Male Gorillas form groups together with females to ease reproduction. The new born babies join the group to make the family bigger.
For leader ship reasons – Male Gorillas form groups to lead as his subjects. Gorillas groups are lead by a dominant male silver back.
To develop a sense of belonging – each gorilla belongs to a certain group and when any gorilla especially males are chassed from group A; he join another group.
Proper nurturing of young Gorillas – the female Gorillas takes care of the young ones as the male offers security.
Training ground – Gorillas are closely related to humans and are considered highly intelligent. A few individuals in captivity have been taught a sub set of sign language. Gorillas are now known to use tools in the wild.
Proper feeding – Male gorillas are entitled to look for sources of food for the entire group. Once they discover food, the entire family moves to feed.
- Gorilla Families in Bwindi Forest, Uganda
- Gorilla Families in Mgahinga Forest, Uganda
- Gorilla Families in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
- Gorilla Families in Virunga National Park, DR Congo