What is Your Favorite Animal?

Gorilla Facts: a mother and baby


Gorilla Facts

Gorilla Facts: A picture of a silverback western lowland gorilla walking on all four legs at The Houston Zoo.

A silverback western lowland gorilla.

First, are gorillas considered apes or monkeys? Gosh, is there a difference? So many gorilla facts to learn!

Well, almost all monkeys have tails whereas apes do not have tails (this is starting to feel like a math problem).  Since gorillas don’t have tails, they are classified as apes along with orangutans, chimpanzees, and bonobos.

Sadly, there are only an estimated 100,000 left in the world. Gorillas are the world’s largest primate and closely related to humans, sharing 98% of the human DNA. And they all live in Africa mainly in troops (the name for a group of gorillas) of 5 to 50 members. Each troop generally includes a silverback, an adult dominant male with a silver streak across its back, along with a number of females and their young.

And finally, all four species are classified as endangered by the IUCN.  Furthermore, mountain gorillas and the eastern lowland gorillas are now classified as critically endangered. But how did this happen?

Gorilla Facts: a mother and baby

A mother and baby gorilla.

The threats to gorillas are numerous. Poaching, loss of habitat from mining, timber harvesting, and agriculture, and spread of infectious diseases (some from humans) have negatively impacted them. Even armed conflict (as in wars) between humans (with gorillas caught in the middle) have caused the population to dramatically decline. Incredibly, your cell phone and other electronics contribute to the gorillas dwindling numbers. My cell phone? Almost all electronics have a mineral called coltan which is primarily mined in central Africa. In order to mine coltan, large parts of the gorilla’s habitat are destroyed.

Our Experience with Gorillas

Our only direct experiences with these magnificent animals is through zoos.  From these experiences, Dale was inspired to carve 2 gorilla sculptures to better understand both the differences and similarities with humans. “Enigma“, the head of a male gorilla and “A Watchful Eye“, an emerging sculpture of another male. In order to see them in the wild, we are planning a photo safari to Rwanda within the next 2 years and we can’t wait!

Stone sculpture by Dale Weiler of a gorilla head, gorilla facts

“Enigma”, a stone sculpture by Dale


What Can We Do?

If you can afford it, go see them in Rwanda, Uganda or the DR Congo. Gorilla tourism employs thousands of local residents and helps support conservation and preservation. And while most people can’t personally travel to see them, you can learn more about gorillas and educate others. Recycle your cell phone and other electronics. Buy sustainable wood which is not illegally logged from the gorilla’s habitat.  Donate to worthy charities (check Charity Navigator or other charity rating services). And support zoos that participate in the conservation of this amazing animal.

Gorilla Facts: A picture of a male silverback western lowland gorilla smelling a leaf at The Houston Zoo.

A western lowland gorilla smelling a leaf.

Learn More

Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund International

Gorilla Doctors

International Gorilla Conservation Program

N C Zoo

An article on coltan mining