Great apes, gorillas seem to have evolved from lesser apes nearly twenty million years back. They are divided variously into species and subspecies, though four different subspecies appear to be somewhat agreed upon: Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla Beringei Beringei), Cross River Gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla Diehli), Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla Gorilla) and Eastern Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla Beringei Graueri).
Physical attributes vary amongst subspecies with Mountain Gorillas being the largest and hairiest of the four. They also would be the darkest in colour. Lowland Gorillas have longer arms and lighter coloration, being in the assortment of brown to gray in case of the Western Lowland Gorilla. Males of the species are larger with weight averaging about four hundred pounds, though larger individuals of more than five hundred pounds have been recorded in the wild and more frequently in captivity. Females are nearly half that size with a mean body weight of two hundred pounds and height generally under five feet. In general body structure is tight in case of both genders and upper body is well developed including broad chest and powerful shoulders with long and strong limbs. Gorillas have opposable thumbs and move on all fours in a form called knuckle-walking. The have been documented to use tools such as chimps in the wild. Head is big with a prominent sagittal crest and powerful jaws, including well developed canines. Eyes are small and brown and nose is distinctively patterned like human finger prints.
Despite their display in certain movies and media as aggressive, dangerous beasts, gorillas are totally harmless and calm animals. They live in small groups led by an adult male’silverback’ gorilla, named after a saddle shaped pattern of silver hair on the back. Younger’blackback’ males at times encourage the leader who makes all the decisions regarding foraging and eating. They live in tropical and subtropical forests in equatorial Africa, usually occupying limited ranges of a couple of square km per tribe. They spend their day eating leaves, twigs, fruits, branches, shoots, bamboos and even insects. Silverback leads them to their everyday place of feeding and takes care to oversee and protects its tribe. In case an intruder threatens to invade the group’s space, silverbacks show aggression through roaring, beating of chest, throwing and breaking of bamboos and objects and charging. Every day they prepare nests in which to invest their night. These nests are different and enable researchers to accurately forecast the numbers of gorillas in a locality by simply counting of the nests.
Gorillas are seen in countries of Central and West Africa. Lowland Gorillas live in Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Congo, Republic of Congo, Gabon and Democratic Republic of Congo. Unfortunately unstable political climate and the war like atmosphere of those parts hasn’t been conductive towards the great apes before and because of this, gorillas exist in small pockets now on the map of Africa.
Maturity is reached in gorillas at almost ten years of age. Females give birth after every few years, following a gestation period of near eight and a half months. Mothers look after the young for up to three to four years. As adulthood is reached, the young often move off to establish their own families. Silverbacks are older than twelve years.