I know I am going to date myself, but at the very least this admission will prove that my reverence and concern for animal life on the planet goes way back. I am hoping that many of you remember Mighty Joe Young – (1949). No! Well I do. I admit it. I saw it as a kid, and I will also freely admit that it made me cry. I do this too easily, cry that is, but it’s because this planet and its inhabitants are fragile in so many ways. I know that humans are a major cause for the endangerment of many animals. They are also the solution and they continue to prove that they can be. One of those endangered creatures is the Eastern Gorilla. We’ll discuss him today, but first here’s a throwback to all of you who remember Mighty Joe Young. It just makes me smile so I had to put it here.
Mighty Joe Young – 1949
I know that many of the kids who read my blog will not recognize Mighty Joe Young, but I’m going to bet that they know King Kong. Both Mighty Joe and King Kong were very misunderstood gorillas, but that’s all make-believe. Let’s talk about the real thing, which I believe is much more interesting than the movies. As they say, fact can be stranger than fiction. Let’s meet the Eastern Gorilla (Gorilla beringei), which is also known as the Mountain Gorilla, or the Eastern Lowland Gorilla.
He looks like a pretty tough customer. I think he needs to be. He’s fighting the odds. Unlike other games you’ve heard tell of, the odds are certainly not always in his favor.
There are two species of Gorilla, they are; Gorilla beringei, which is the Eastern Gorilla and Gorilla gorilla, which is the Western Gorilla. Their names define the areas in Africa in which they live.
It is estimated that there are as few as 700 Eastern Gorillas. Nearly half of them live in the forests of the Virunga Mountains in Central Africa, in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Eastern Gorilla is the largest member of the primate family and the largest species of Gorilla. It is also endangered.
The primate family includes human beings, apes, and monkeys. The Eastern Gorilla can weigh up to 400 pounds and grow 5 to 6 feet in height. Gorillas are dimorphic. Dimorphic means that there is a distinct difference between the males and the females. In the case of Gorillas, the male Gorilla is much larger than the female. In some animals, mostly birds, you can see the difference in how they look. This is called ornamentation dimorphism.
Although it appears to be a fearsome beast, the Eastern Gorilla is a gentle giant and with strong family tendencies. The Eastern Gorilla tends to live in larger groups than some of the other species. They have been known to form social groups of up to 50 individuals.
The distinctive silver fur on the back of the larger gorillas will begin to appear at 11 years of age. The silver fur represents that a male is mature and is a leader of the social group. This is a form of communication and a warning to other males in the group. There may be other, younger silverbacks in the group, but they support the leader who main job is to protect the group.
Photo credit: http://explore.org
Gorillas are herbivorous. For all the students who read my blog, herbivorous simply means that they only eat plants and fruits. A Gorilla’s diet actually helps the environment. Gorillas eat fruit and then they spread the seeds around the forest. Gorillas are diurnal, which is another word my students have seen before. It means they are active during the day. Most of their day is spent eating then napping.
Gorillas have only one baby every three to four years. This is due to the long time that it takes the gorilla family to raise a baby. A baby gorilla is not weaned from its mother until it is about three and a half years old. For the students reading, the word weaned may be new. It means that the baby no longer drinks milk from its mother.
As to natural enemies, Gorillas have few; only the Leopard and an occasional alligator pose a natural threat. Its largest threat comes from man. There is continued poaching and habitat destruction, both taking its toll on the population. There is conservation measures in place and the population of Gorillas has slowly increased.
I have found a wonderful video for you; I do hope you enjoy it.
To learn more, visit the following sites:
As usual, my sincerest thanks to ARKive.org for some of the information and pictures.
To my young readers, and all the rest, I thank you so much for stopping by to read about the magnificent Gorilla. I hope you’ll come back next week. I know I will hear from some of you.
Jeanne E. Rogers, Award Winning Author
The Sword of Demelza, Middle Grade Fantasy
“Where Endangered Animals Heroes Roam the Pages!”