Silverback Gorillas are the largest primates in the world. Their DNA is about 98% similar to humans, making them more related to chimpanzees. They are have two main species, the eastern and western gorilla. Western gorillas are divided into two subspecies, the Western Lowland and the Cross River gorilla. Eastern gorillas involve the Mountain and the Eastern Lowland gorilla. The Eastern Lowland gorilla is the largest of the subspecies. They all live in groups/families led by a Silverback, a mature male gorilla. He is distinguished by a grayish-white line along his back and shoulders. Male gorillas that are mature but too young to be a silverback are called Blackbacks. Male blackbacks are adults at 8 years old and leave their group to go with other male gorillas. When they are 12-13 years old, they become silverbacks. They can weigh up to 270 kilograms. A mature blackback or silverback will try to dethrone a silverback when he is strong enough. When he succeeds, he is the new leader of the group. The gorillas will stay loyal to him and help protect themselves from intruders. A gorilla group contains mostly females, adolescents/juveniles, infants, and some adult males. Females leave the group when they reach maturity to avoid mating with the father.
Silverback gorillas’ main diet is plants like fruit, shoots, and leaves. Sometimes insects like termites and ants. Mountain gorillas eat stems and leaves. Sometimes fungi, flowers, and bark. They live in the vast forests of East, Central, and Western Africa. Lowland gorillas can be sighted in forests and swamps along the Congo river basin. Mountain Gorillas are primarily found in the wider Virunga conservation region and Bwindi Impenetrable forest. Western lowland gorillas are more widespread in Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Republic of the Congo.
A fully grown silverback gorilla is about twice the weight of an adult man, and they are over 9 times stronger. Their body weight and remarkable strength are due to robusticity, meaning a higher ratio of muscle mass. You don’t want to be around an angry gorilla. Silverback gorillas are primarily peaceful and don’t always use force in their group. They’re only aggressive if they face a threat, which could be males from other groups, stubborn members of his group, leopards, or humans visiting a group in the wild. If a silverback recognizes a threat, he will attempt to scare the intruder by standing up while drumming up his chest. If that action doesn’t work, he will tear through plants at the intruder while making a roaring sound. The silverback will then make a fake attack using all four legs. If all this does not work and the threat or intruder has not got the message, the silverback will attack and deliver a blow with the hands or teeth. A silverback gorilla will defend his group, especially infants, to death. If poachers wanted to capture an infant, they would go for the silverback first.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), all species of gorillas are endangered. Their most significant threats are human diseases, habitat destruction, and poaching for meat. About 80% of the gorilla population has become extinct in the last three generations. Although there are many international and national laws for the protection of gorillas, the enforcement has not been strict. In 1991, International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) was formed by African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), Fauna & Flora International (FFI), and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The main goal of this conservation program is to conserve the endangered mountain gorillas by reducing the threat to the forest habitat and collaborating with the protected area authorities for gorilla preservation.
Research from Mission Africa Safaris and Animal Sake.
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