Gorilla gorilla gorilla
Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered, with approximately 100,000 remaining in the wild.
Where to see them in the zoo:
The Ford African Rain Forest
Zoo Atlanta exhibits the nation’s largest gorilla collection. Visit our Meet the Gorillas page
Each gorilla has a unique and different nose print, just like humans have different fingerprints. No two are alike!
Gorillas don’t drink water in the wild. They get the water they need from the food they eat.
Gorillas are the largest primates. Adult males weigh 350-450 pounds and can stand up to six feet upright; adult females weigh 150-250 pounds and up to four feet upright. A newborn weighs 3-5 pounds.
Western lowland gorillas live in the tropical forests of West Africa. Countries include Cameroon, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Angola, Gabon, Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea.
Gorillas live in groups called troops. Each troop has a dominant male leader called a silverback – so named for the silver hair on his back. The silverback is the protector of the troop. There can also be several younger males (called blackbacks), along with multiple females and their offspring. A typical gorilla day consists of eating, playing, relaxing, traveling (eating on the way, of course) and sleeping. Gorillas make a new nest to sleep in every night.
Gorillas are herbivores (plant eaters). They eat leaves, seeds, fruits, flowers, and plant shoots. Sometimes gorillas eat ants. Gorillas eat 40-50 pounds of food a day. Of the four types of gorillas, western lowland gorillas eat the most fruit.
Gorillas are born after approximately 9 months of gestation (just like humans). Newborn babies weigh 3-5 pounds and cling to their mothers’ hair immediately. Females usually give birth to a single offspring, although occasionally twins can be born. Zoo Atlanta is home to the only mother-reared twins in captivity! Mothers will hold their babies all the time for about the first four months of life. Infants start trying solid foods around 6 months of age but nurse until they are 3 or 4 years old.
Both males and females often leave the group they are born in, usually at the time they reach sexual maturity (roughly 8-10 years old for females and 13-15 for males). Gorilla females will leave their birth troops to live in other troops, whereas gorilla males become solitary and try to start families of their own. Gorillas in the wild can live 30 to 40 years, whereas gorillas in captivity can live 40 to 50 years. The oldest gorilla to live in captivity reached an estimated 55 years.
Neighbors in the wild:
Chimpanzees, drills, colobus monkeys, Schmidt’s guenons, African elephants, African grey parrots, sitatunga antelope
Population status and threats:
Gorillas face many threats. The trees in their forest homes are being cut down for timber or to make way for agricultural farms. Minerals like gold and tin are also mined from the forest, destroying even more of their habitat and polluting streams.
Poaching is another serious problem. Unfortunately, gorilla meat is a delicacy in western Africa and is eaten as a status symbol, like caviar. Gorilla meat may even be found in city restaurants there.
Disease also threatens gorillas. Gorillas are susceptible to many human illnesses, and they can catch these diseases when people go into the forest to gather food or water or to take a tour. The deadly Ebola virus is a serious problem for western gorillas. In some areas, up to 95 percent of gorillas have died from Ebola.
Zoo Atlanta Conservation Efforts:
Zoo Atlanta helps conserve gorillas in the wild through serving as home to the international headquarters of The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund (DFGFI). The mission of DFGFI is to protect gorillas and their habitats in Africa. By providing free space and technical support to DFGFI, Zoo Atlanta enables the organization to allot more funds toward conserving gorillas in the wild.