Gorillas are the biggest primates in the world and although they share over 95% of their DNA with Homo Sapiens they’re pretty different from us in terms of disposition. If humans are the small, brash bullies of the primate world then gorillas are the big, chilled, sensitive souls; content to live and let live…as long as they are not disturbed.

 

An orphaned gorilla with his caretaker, Andre, in Virunga National Park. Photo © Virunga National Park

 

If you’re as fascinated by these gentle giants as we are, then here are some facts about gorillas you may have missed.

1. They’re hipsters

Gorillas are largely vegan – feeding on fruits, stems and bamboo shoots, and only occasionally snacking on ants and termites. And forget the man-bun; it’s the hair on a gorilla’s back that matters. In many ways it’s like a human beard – it shows that a male has reached sexual maturity. The hair on a male gorilla changes as it grows older, transforming from black to grey to silver, which is why mature males are known as silverbacks.

Photo © 7 Summits Africa

2. They’re individuals

Gorillas have unique wrinkles around their noses and, much like human fingerprints, can be used to identify individuals. Gorillas will touch each other with their noses in greeting and give hugs for reassurance and social bonding.

Photo © 7 Summits Africa

3. They’re sociable

Every gorilla rolls with a crew, or more correctly, a troop. Troops are tightly-knit groups of between six to 12 individuals. In every troop there is a dominant silverback male who makes most of the decisions and is responsible for the safety of the troop.

Photo © Virunga National Park

4. They’re ripped

Male gorillas can weigh up to 195kgs and are roughly six times stronger than an average human male. Competition for females is high and can result in aggressive displays such as chest-beating and charging, but most of the time these displays are bluffs intended to intimidate rather than to injure.

Photo © Thommo Hart / 7 Summits Africa

5. They’re shy

Despite their size and occasional displays of power, they’re not aggressive animals. Their sheer size deters most attackers, and their only known predators in the wild have been leopards and crocodiles who might attack young gorillas away from the troop. Humans remain their biggest threat.

Photo © Virunga National Park

6. They’re deep

Gorillas are intelligent animals and have been known to display grief when a member of their troop dies. They can also use tools – utilising sticks to test the depth of water or sharp rocks to scrape bark from trees for food.

 

Photo © 7 Summits Africa

7. They like to talk

Gorillas use vocalisations, body posture and facial expressions to communicate. They use over 25 different sounds that include grunts, barks and screams. Gorilla mothers use tactile and repetitive gestures to communicate with their babies, a kind of ‘baby talk’ that is distinct from the way they communicate with other adults.

Photo © Virunga National Park

 

 

Gorillas; what’s not to love?

The #7SummitsAfrica team climbed Mt. Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in support of the brave rangers who risk their lives to protect these magnificent animals, and we’ll be climbing Mt. Speke in Uganda to raise awareness of the need to protect this endangered species.

Feeling the heat on Mt. Nyiragongo Photo © Thommo Hart / 7 Summits Africa

 

You can help too: Find out more about what The Gorilla Organization does to protect mountain gorillas, and click here to donate.

Please also support the brave men and women who protect them in Virunga National Park, donate to the Fallen Rangers Fund today. And don’t forget to tell your friends (share, share and share some more!).

Sally Grierson from 7 Summits Africa with one of the many guides who saw the team safely into the Virunga National Park