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Gorilla Facts

Size 4.5-5.7 ft (140-175 cm)
Speed Up to 24.8 mph (40 km/h)
Weight 132-606 lb (60-275 kg)
Lifespan 35-50 years
Food Plants, roots, sprouts, bulbs
Predators Leopards, crocodiles
Habitat Africa
Order Primates
Family Apes
Scientific name Gorilla
Characteristics High forehead, long arms

Main Characteristics

Gorillas are the world's largest primates. They feed exclusively on leaves and are known for chest-beating with cupped hands. They are often portrayed as aggressive, but are in fact very peaceful animals. Gorillas are diurnal and inhabit forests, mountain forests and swamps in various African countries such as Cameroon, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Gabu, Uganda and Ruanda. Gorillas belong to the great apes. These include orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos.

Gorilla Photo: paula french/Shutterstock


There are two species: the Western Gorilla and the Eastern Gorilla. And there are four subspecies: Western Lowland Gorilla, Cross River Gorilla. Eastern Lowland Gorilla and Mountain Gorilla. All gorilla species are considered "critically endangered" by the IUCN.

Anatomy and Appearance

The Largest Eardrum

Even if its ear itself appears to be small: Of all animals, gorillas have the largest eardrum. It measures 0.15 inch2 (97 mm2). A human eardrum only measures 0.096 inch2 (62 mm2).

Each Gorilla Has a Unique Nose

Biologists look at the gorillas` noses to identify them. No two noses look the same!

Gorilla Photo: Eric Gevaert/Shutterstock


What do gorillas eat? Gorillas are vegetarians and eat 40-66 lb (18-30 kg) of plants, roots, sprouts and bulbs every day. They do not drink water, because the plants contain sufficient amounts of liquid.


Why Do They Beat Their Chest?

Beating their chests is probably the best-known behavior of Gorillas. You can hear it at distances of nearly 0.62 miles (1 km). It does not only demonstrate to other males who is the coolest gorilla in the group. They also beat their chests to say hello or to inform another animal on their whereabouts.

Do They Climb Trees?

Gorillas are very good at climbing and obviously not scared of heights. In the trees they climb up to 40 m high! However, they do not use their arms to swing from branch to branch like chimps. They prefer to hold on to forked branches. Mountain gorillas do not climb as much as other species.

Can They Swim?

No, Gorillas can't swim.

Do They Use Tools?

Gorillas use sticks to find out how deep a lake or river is. They also use wooden planks to get across swampy soil safely. Read more about tool use and animal intelligence.

Do They Build Nests?

Among mammals, the gorillas are the biggest animals that build nests. They don’t do it for their offspring, which is mostly carried on their backs. They build nests to have a nice and cozy place to sleep and rest. The nests usually consist of leaves, measure about 3.2 feet (1 meter) in diameter and are newly constructed every day.

Enemies and Threats

Do Gorillas Have Enemies?

If you don’t harm me, I don’t harm you! Gorillas hardly have any enemies. Only leopards can be dangerous for the little babies. But in the end, humans are a much bigger threat as they destroy the gorilla’s habitat when clearing the woods.


Baby gorillas weigh about 4.4 pounds (2 kg) when they are born and are breast-fed by their mother for three to four years.

Fun Facts

Where Does the Name Gorilla Come From?

It is a Greek word meaning "tribe of hairy women".

Which Other Primates Live in Africa?

Apart from gorillas, chimpanzees, mandrills and baboons live on the African continent. Lemurs have their "residence" on the island of Madagascar off the southeast coast of Africa.

Gorilla Photo: Joshua Minso/Shutterstock

From here you find facts submitted by fan Jovana:

Author JovanaGorillas Are Considered Gentle Giants

Even though gorillas are amicable, most people assume them to be aggressive and that they would attack and kill humans. This impression has been consolidated due to movies such as “King Kong”. In fact, Gorillas are often called gentle giants. They are the friendliest and most familial apes. However, you should not be misled – the silverback (the leader of the group) knows how to defend itself.

They Walk on Their Knuckles

Gorillas walk on their knuckles most of the time. They use their second and third phalanxes. Chimps also walk on their knuckles, just like the gorillas.

When They Grow Old

When male gorillas grow old, they develop a grayish coat on their back, the so-called “silverback”. The leader of a group is always a silverback and the oldest animal in the group. Out in the wild, gorillas can get 35-40 years old, animals in captivity can reach an age of 50 years.

Who Is Dian Fossey?

The zoologist and behavioral scientist Dian Fossey lived among gorillas for several years. She got to know the animals and was accepted as a member of their group. She wrote a book for people to learn that they do not need to be afraid of gorillas and to prove that they are amicable creatures. The title of her famous novel is “Gorillas in the Mist”.

The facts above were submitted by fan Jovana. Thanks!

Gorilla Photo: Marek Velechovsky/Shutterstock

The Gorilla Is Related To:

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