Western Lowland Gorillas

The scientific classification: Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Chordata, Class: Mammalia, Order: Primates, Family: Hominidae, Genus: Gorilla, Species: Gorilla. Gorilla, Subspecies: Gorilla. Gorilla. Gorilla.

The western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) is a subspecies of the western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) that lives in montane, primary, and secondary forests and lowland swamps in Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. It is the gorilla usually found in zoos. Adult male Gorillas are prone to cardiomyopathy, a degenerative heart disease.

Where they live: Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, and Central African Republic

Characteristics:

Western gorillas are smaller than their eastern cousins – although males still weigh up to 180kg (28st 4lb) – and often have much redder or greyer fur. Adult males have striking chestnut fur on their head and neck, and the characteristic fur on their back extends further down their thighs giving them a more full-bodied silver look.

Western lowland gorillas live in family groups led by the dominant silverback, but unlike eastern gorillas, the group will often split up during the day, coming back together at night to nest. Like all gorillas, they are largely herbivorous, but western gorillas are particularly fond of fruit, which makes up most of their diet when available. They also eat leaves, shoots, bark, ants and other insects.

Physical description

The western lowland gorilla is the smallest subspecies of gorilla. A male standing erect can be 5–6 feet (1.5–1.8 m) tall and weigh 300–600 pounds (140–270 kg). Females stand 5 feet (1.5 m) tall and weigh half as much as males. According to the late John Aspinall, a silverback gorilla in his prime has the physical strength of 7–8 Olympic weight lifters but this claim is unverified.

Behavior

Western lowland gorilla groups travel within a home range averaging 3 to 18 miles². Gorillas do not display territorial behavior, and neighboring groups often overlap ranges (Bermejo, 2004, Doran et al., 2004). The group usually favours a certain area within the home range but seems to follow a seasonal pattern depending upon the availability of ripening fruits and, at some sites, localized large open clearings (swamps and “bais”). Gorillas normally travel 0.3–1.8 miles per day. Populations feeding on high-energy foods that vary spatially and seasonally tend to have greater day ranges than those feeding on lower-quality but more consistently available foods. Larger groups travel greater distances in order to obtain sufficient food (Remis, 1997b). Human hunters and leopards can also influence the movement patterns.

Gorillas live in family groupings of one dominant male, five to seven adult females, children and adolescents, and possibly a few non-dominant males. Gorillas reproduce slowly because females do not begin reproducing until the age of nine or ten and usually only produce one baby approximately every five years.

Diet

The western lowland gorilla eats plants (including bamboo), and occasionally insects and small reptiles. Males eat up to 9 kg (20 lb) a day. In the 1980s, a census of the gorilla populations in equatorial Africa was thought to be 100,000. Researchers later adjusted the figure to less than half because of poaching and diseases. Surveys conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society in 2006 and 2007 found about 125,000 previously unreported gorillas have been living in the swamp forests of Lake Télé Community Reserve and in neighboring Marantaceae (dry land) forests in the Republic of the Congo. However, gorillas remain vulnerable to Ebola, deforestation, and poaching. Zoos worldwide have a population of 550 western lowland gorillas and the Cincinnati Zoo leads the United States in western lowland gorilla births.

Genetics

The genome of a western lowland gorilla was sequenced in 2012.