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What is Your Favorite Animal?

Gorilla Facts


Gorilla Facts

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

A gorilla is an Ape.

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

gorilla facts

Great Ape Size Chart by Harry Wilson

Sadly, there are only an estimated 100,000 gorillas left in the world. Gorillas are the world’s largest primate. Closely related to humans, they share 98% of our human DNA.


And they all live in Central 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.


gorilla facts

A great graphic by Peppermintnarwhal of the 4 subspecies of gorilla. Note the mountain gorilla was reclassified in 2018 as endangered

How Many Species of Gorilla?

And finally, there are 2 species, Eastern and Western gorillas with 4 subspecies. The Eastern species has 2 subspecies, the mountain and Grauer’s.  The Western also having 2 subspecies, the Cross River and the Western lowland.  All but the mountain gorilla are classified as critically endangered by the IUCN.  This means they are likely to become extinct, especially without protection from humans. On the good news front, mountain gorillas were reclassified as endangered in late 2018 as a result of massive conservation efforts.

So if you see a gorilla in a zoo, what kind is it? Well, it is a western lowland.

gorilla facts

A Western lowland gorilla at the NC Zoo

What are the Threats to Gorillas?

The threats to gorillas are numerous. Loss of habitat from mining, timber harvesting, and agriculture are reducing their home sites.

Also, the spread of infectious diseases (some from humans) have negatively impacted them. Even armed conflict between humans (with gorillas caught in the middle) have caused the population to dramatically decline. Poaching for bushmeat also kills gorillas.

gorilla facts

Mountain gorilla with her infant. Photo: Dian Fossey Fund International


Incredibly, your cell phone and other electronics contribute to the gorillas dwindling numbers. My cell phone? Almost all electronics contain 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. Wow, we didn’t know that!

Our Experience with Gorillas

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

In the meantime, Dale is starting a new gorilla sculpture. Follow us on Facebook to see updates.

gorilla facts

Dale’s next sculpture. Can you see a gorilla in it?

gorilla facts

“Enigma”, a stone sculpture by Dale Weiler


What Can We Do?

If you can afford it, go see them in Africa. Gorilla tourism employs thousands of local residents and helps support conservation.  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 that is not illegally logged from the gorilla’s habitat.  Donate to and support zoos that participate in the conservation of this amazing animal.

Learn More

Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International

Gorilla Doctors

International Gorilla Conservation Program

N C Zoo

An article on coltan mining