Western Gorilla - Diet, Characteristics and Conservation

Western Gorilla: find out what this animal is like, its physical characteristics, character, behavior, etc. Gorillas are the largest living primates and are...

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Gorillas are the largest primates in existence and are closely related to humans, as it is indeed with them that we share a high percentage of our genes. These animals are really very amazing, so much so that they are considered intelligent thanks to their ways of communicating and because they are able to use tools. But, unfortunately, and like the majority of animal biodiversity, gorillas are highly threatened.

In this PlanetAnimal sheet, we will present information on the characteristics, habitat and customs of the Western gorilla, so if you are looking for information about it, you are fell in the right place!

Origin

  • Africa
  • Angola
  • Cameroon
  • Congo (Kinshasa)
  • Gabon
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Nigeria

Characteristics of the Western Gorilla

Gorillas are fairly large and sturdy primates that have surprising strength to match their weight and size. In the species, there is sexual dimorphism, as the males are larger than the females, reaching a weight of around 180 kg in the natural state. But in captivity, they can reach 275 kg. For their part, in general, the females reach half of these weights. Regarding the height, on average, the first measure 1.75 m and the second 1.25 m.

These animals are almost entirely covered in rough, deep black fur, except for the face, ears, hands and feet.In this species, we can find individuals with a light brown to gray coloration. There is a peculiarity concerning the coat of the males, with age some develop a gray coloring on the back and one of these dominant males takes control of the group. This characteristic has led them to be known as silverbacks.

Western gorillas have short noses, rather small eyes and ears, and large nostrils that stand out well on the face. As for their jaws, they are also large, provided with strong and wide teeth. These animals have opposable thumbs, like humans, a feature that grants certain skills in manipulating objects.

Western Gorilla Subspecies

The western gorilla belongs to the species Gorilla gorilla and is divided into two subspecies:

  • Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla)
  • The Cross River Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli)

Habitat of the Western Gorilla

Western gorillas mainly thrive in secondary type forests that have an open canopy that allows good solar incidence on the ground. Regional rivers and habitat fragmentation are common barriers for this species.

The western lowland gorilla can be found in both swampy areas and lowland continental forests, located in Cameroon south of the Congo River and also east of the Oubangui River. For its part, the Cross River gorilla subspecies is found in the border area between Nigeria and Cameroon.

Habits of the Western Gorilla

As a rule, this species of gorilla lives in groups, with some difference in number depending on the subspecies. The Cross River gorilla tends to form groups of around 20 individuals, while the western lowland gorilla lives in congregations of around 10 gorillas.

In these families there is a male silverback who is the dominant and the females with their young. However, it is common for the young to also live close to the main group. Silverbacks can be moved by a younger male that shows greater strength. When this happens, usually the new leader kills the young of the previous one, in order to stop the lactation of the mothers and make them enter the reproductive phase. The evicted gorilla will usually lead a solitary life.

Gorillas are generally shy and peaceful but that doesn't take away from their ferocity, especially the males, who can be quite aggressive and dangerous in the face of intruders. The typical behavior of an upset gorilla is to beat its chest in an upright position, in addition to growling loudly.

These animals have a habit of forming nests with branches, which they can do in a tree or on the ground, which will help them sleep. On the other hand, it is also customary for them to groom each other.

Western Gorilla Feeding

The western gorilla is a herbivorous species that consumes juicy plant stems, leaves, berries and fibrous bark.

The Gorilla subspecies gorilla diehli, consumes grasses and ground bark throughout the year and it will only consume fruit if the season permits. For its part, the Gorilla gorilla gorilla feeds on species such as Aframomum spp and also consumes the leaves and shoots of the Marantaceae family. As for fruit, they will also consume it according to the season. In addition, this subspecies includes ants, termites and certain aquatic plants in its diet.

Devoting many hours to this activity, these animals feed mainly in the morning and afternoon. On the other hand, they are able to climb great heights to feed on certain trees.

Reproduction of the western gorilla

Females mature sexually at 10 years old, while males mature at 18 years old. The tendency is that the dominant male is the one who mates with the females in the group, and because of the skills and strength of the latter, he is the females' favorite.

As in humans, gorillas have no particular time to reproduce and females have menstrual cycles every 28 days. Gestation time tends to be around 256 days, around nine months and females will give birth to a single cub weighing around 2 kg.

Newborns are breastfed for long periods of time, around 4-5 years old, after which they become independent. Females usually breed at intervals of 4 to 6 years. A fact to take into account is that the mortality of newborns is very high and easily reaches 65%. However, although the males interact little with their children, they are fiercely protective of the family group.

Conservation status of the western gorilla

The western gorilla is critically endangered, with a declining population trend. Despite the fact that any hunting or capture activity is illegal, this decline is mainly due to the slaughter of this animal for the consumption of its meat. The attack levels of the species are alarming and massive, even in protected areas.

The Cross River gorilla subspecies is particularly affected because it is small and fragmented. Gorillas suffer the consequences of opportunistic hunting, that is, many hunters in search of other species profit from encounters with these animals. Also, it is common for them to get caught in traps used for other animals.

On the other hand, a large part of the territory has been given in concessions for logging. In addition, contagion by the Ebola virus is another important cause that affects these populations of primates.As if these aspects were not enough, it is estimated that climate change will considerably affect the habitat of the species and therefore this one.

Laws exist throughout the region where the western gorilla lives. However, there are major inconsistencies in their application, so the end result is the tragic consequences described above.

Western Gorilla Pictures

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