Although strong and powerful, gorillas are generally gentle,shy ,retiring rather than ferocious and treacherous . They live in groups of 2-40 individuals, averaging about 11. Groups are led by a dominant male, the Silverback, named for the silvery gray hairs that grow when the male matures. The Silverback serves as the chief leader and protector of the group, to whom all group members defer. He decides when and where to go, rest and sleep, arbitrates disputes among his family members and protects them from rival Silverbacks or human predators. Gorillas usually seeks no trouble but will valiantly defend its family group if threatened.
An adult male called a silverback named for the silvery gray hairs on its back normally leads each group, serving as its chief protector and defender. Gorillas continually rotate through their home ranges of 10 to 15 square miles, feeding and resting throughout the day. Gorillas are nomadic hence they build new nests each day at dusk made out of bent branches in a tree or grasses on the ground.
These gigantic apes /Gorillas have strong attachments to members of their own group and even when groups meet and mix up and they subsequently part, each of them remaining with its respective unit.
They have a slow rate of reproduction which makes them a species even more threatened. In a 40-50 year lifetime, a female might have only 2-6 living offspring. Females Gorillas give birth for the first time at about 10yrs of age and will have an offspring every four years or more. A male reaches sexual maturity between 10 and 12 years. Because females can only conceive for only about three days each month, the female produces a single young and in rare cases twins.
Newborn gorillas are weak and tiny, weighing about 4 pounds. Their movements are as awkward , but their development is roughly twice as fast compared to that of young human young ones. At 3 or 4 months, the gorilla infant can sit upright and can stand with support soon after. It suckles for about a year and is gradually weaned at about 3.5 years, when it becomes more independent.
Animals of this size need a lot of food, how ever these large and strong mountain gorillas are primarily herbivore. and the vegetarian gorilla is no exception. Although they eat a variety of plants-over 100 different species , their favorites include wild celery, bamboo, thistles, stinging nettles, bedstraw and certain fruit. These plants seem to provide sufficient moisture so Gorillas rarely need drinking water.
The primary threat to mountain gorillas forest clearance and degradation, as the region’s growing human population struggles to secure agricultural and settlement land. In Rwanda, Uganda and Congo, a regional conservation program stressing the importance of maintaining the virgin forest watershed and the need to habituate some groups of gorillas for tourist visits has helped ease encroachment.The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), in collaboration with Fauna and Flora International and World Wide Fund for Nature, established the International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP) to safeguard the last remaining mountain gorillas their habitat as well.Conservation is mainly done through Strengthening gorilla habitat protection through regional collaboration, researching the dynamic between the human population and the natural habitat/wildlife, and working with local communities to develop livelihood strategies that are complementary to conservation objectives.
The coalition has been a great success, but still needs great support from all stake holders. The most endangered of the gorilla subspecies, fewer than 800 mountain gorillas remain in the wild.
Leopards and humans are the only known enemies to mountain Gorillas but Crocodiles are potentially dangerous to lowland gorillas. In western Africa, gorillas are commonly hunted for meat or in retaliation for crop raiding, but in eastern Africa they have been the victims of snares and traps set for antelope and other animals. Poachers have also destroyed entire family groups in their attempts to capture infant gorillas for zoos, but others are killed to sell their heads and hands as trophies.