How Do Gorillas Nurse their Young Ones?

Many people ask how the gorillas in the wild nurse their young ones? From birth to three years, the young gorillas are kept under strict care by their mothers. Because of their long period of development and dependence, gorilla mothers can expect to take several years caring for their vulnerable offspring. They carry them in the front and later on their back, make sure that the young ones are breastfed or get enough food and teach them day to day survival tactics!

Male Gorillas play active role in their socialization, often associating with older infants and juveniles. The relationship that develops between the silver back and infants in his group is usually supportive; he serves as an attachment figure during the difficult time of weaning and he shields young gorillas from inter-group aggression by intervening in disputes involving older, more dominant individuals.

How a Gorilla Grows

For the first five months of life, the young Gorillas stay in strict contact with their mothers while the silverback ensures that it provides enough security to the entire gorilla group or family. During this period, infants are dependent on their mothers for food, suckling at least once per hour, and sleep at night in their mothers’ nests. After five months, mother-infant pairs break body contact, but only for a few seconds and by 12 months, infants venture up to, but never more than, five meters away from their mothers.

From 18 to 21 months, at this stay, the Gorilla mothers regularly care for their young ones. Concurrent with this decrease in proximity is a decrease in nursing frequency, with infants only nursing once every two hours. At the age of 30 months, infants spend only half of their time with their mothers. Like human being, Gorilla mothers care and nurture their young ones.

From three to six years, it is the juvenile stage- there is decrease in maternal grooming, no longer sharing a sleeping nest with the mother, and weaning. Because of the enormity of the task of rearing infants and the stress of lactation on the mother’s body, female gorillas experience lactation amenorrhea until the infant is weaned at three or four years. After the infant is weaned, the mother begins to ovulate and shortly thereafter becomes pregnant. Weaning conflict is minimized in gorillas, compared to other great apes, because of the cohesive nature of gorilla groups. The constant availability of play partners (including the silverback) may contribute to less intense conflict between mother and infant during this period.

Males and females look very similar during their juvenile (3-6) and adolescent (6-8) years. However, when males mature into their black – black period, they are taller and begin developing adult male characteristics. The silvering of hair on the back begins at around 13 years of age.

Would you like to see the gorillas in the wild? Why not try a responsible tour from one of the local tour operators listed on our website. You can also find several discount gorilla safaris available from some trusted tour operators. Whether you are looking for a gorilla safari in Rwanda or Uganda, there are great options available at extremely discounted prices!


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