Western lowland gorilla

Latin Name
Gorilla gorilla gorilla

Class
Mammals

Order
Primates

Description

The western lowland gorilla is the largest of the living primates. Males can be up to 6 feet tall and 400 pounds while females range to 5 feet and 200 pounds. They have black to brown-gray coats that turn gray with age.

Adult males have a broad, silvery-white "saddle" on the back, extending to rump and thighs. The species has small ears and nostrils bordered by broad ridges that extend to the upper lip. Young have a white tuft of hair on the rump.


 

Range

Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gabon, Congo and Equatorial Guinea


Status

The gorilla is listed as critically endangered, and commercial trade of this species is prohibited by international law. The principal causes of population decline are habitat destruction and hunting.

Poachers prize adult males and disrupt troops by killing leaders. Lincoln Park Zoo participates in the Gorilla Species Survival Plan® and is world famous for its success in breeding western lowland gorillas.


Habitat

Tropical secondary forest: the herbs, shrubs and vines that make up its diet grow best where the open canopy allows plenty of light to reach the forest floor.


Niche

Western lowland gorillas are herbivorous, feeding mainly on leaves and stems, although they never strips one site completely. The western subspecies takes a higher proportion of fruit—a more limited resource—which appears to limit troop size to 5–10 individuals.

Troops consist of a dominant silverback plus a harem of females with their young, including subadult males. Lone males occur, and troop ranges can overlap.

The species is diurnal (active during the day) and mainly terrestrial. Gorillas walk on the soles of rear feet and the knuckles of forelimbs. They will build nests on the ground or in trees (especially young gorillas).


Life History

Mating is non-seasonal, with a single young born after a 9-month gestation period. Infants weigh 4–5 pounds. They cling to dam within a few days of birth, crawl at about nine weeks, walk at about five months and are weaned at 2–3 years. Females mature at 7–8 years, males later. Females leave these troop to join other troops or lone males; adult males leave without conflict.




Bonus Content

Playtime for Baby Gorillas
Baby gorillas Patty and Nayembi are getting plenty of play in as they grow at Regenstein Center for African Apes. Curator of Primates Maureen Leahy explains the importance of play for gorilla development.


What’s Inside the Pumpkin?
It’s more Halloween fun at Lincoln Park Zoo as juvenile gorilla Azizi discovers a special snack inside a pumpkin carved for him by the caregivers at Regenstein Center for African Apes.


President and CEO Kevin Bell offers an update on baby gorilla Patty as she prepares to turn 2.

What's New with Baby Patty?
President and CEO Kevin Bell offers an update on baby gorilla Patty shortly before she turns 2. The little gorilla is playing throughout her exhibit—and trying out the touch-screen cognition sessions!

With social species, like gorillas, every move has to take into account complex group dynamics. Animals like female Kowali, pictured here, may move to new homes to provide other individuals the companionship they need.

How Are the Animals Paired Up?
Gorillas prefer social groups, Amur tigers enjoy the solitary life, but every pairing is carefully planned by experts.

Before he grew into an imposing zoo icon, gorilla Bushman was once a baby cared for by Winifred Hope Smith in Cameroon.

Last Visit
Before he grew into a zoo icon, gorilla Bushman was once a baby cared for by Winifred Hope Smith in Cameroon. Learn about Winifred’s life with Bushman—and her last visit to Lincoln Park Zoo.

Mosi, one of the zoo’s bachelor troop gorillas

An Array of Apes
Enjoy these portraits of the zoo’s apes, from babies to bachelors.

Bana holds her baby, Patty, who was born October 11.

Gorilla Matchmaking and Family Planning
How did zoo matchmakers choose the pairings that produced two gorilla babies at Regenstein Center for African Apes? Scientist Sarah Long shares the details

 


Lincoln Park Zoo Exhibit