We love gorillas. They are our closest relative, yet one of our most misunderstood animals. But first, some gorilla facts. Are gorillas considered apes or monkeys? Gosh, is there a difference?
Is A Gorilla A Monkey Or Ape?
Almost all monkeys have tails. Apes don’t 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.
Sadly, there are only an estimated 100,000 gorillas left in the world. Closely related to humans, they share 98% of our human DNA.
They all live in Central Africa mainly in groups of 5 to 50 members. So what is a group of gorillas called? A troop! Each troop generally includes a silverback (the old guy with a silver streak) and a number of females with their young.
How Many Species Of Gorilla?
If you look at the chart, there are 2 species, Eastern and Western gorillas with 4 subspecies. All gorillas are endangered or critically endangered. Meaning they are likely to become extinct, especially without protection from humans.
So when you see a gorilla in a zoo, what kind is it? Well, it is a western lowland as it is the only one living in human care.
Some Gorilla Facts
Let’s dispel some of the myths about gorillas.
Gorillas are strong but not like King Kong in the movies. They are generally gentle, shy and patient.
Gorillas are great parents, doting on their young just like us humans!
They are very intelligent and can learn human sign language. One female gorilla named Koko knew over 2,000 words in sign language.
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) negatively impacts them. COVID-19 is still an unknown but could be catastrophic to gorillas if they are exposed to it. Poaching for bushmeat also kills gorillas.
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 has carved 3 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 the meantime, Dale has just finished a mountain gorilla sculpture. We are looking to find him a proper home to be used for conservation. If you have any ideas, let us know at [email protected]
How Can We Help?
If you can afford it, go see them in Africa. Ok, that is probably not going to happen! So the next best thing? Learn about gorillas and share your knowledge with your friends on social media.
Recycle your cell phone and other electronics. when you recycle, less coltan is mined which helps gorillas.
Donate to and support zoos that participate in the conservation of this amazing animal.
If you are an artist, donate some of the proceeds of art sales to gorilla conservation. Or award money!
Dale received an award for Enigma from The National Sculpture Society. To honor gorillas, we donated the award money to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. You can read about Dale’s award in Loti’s Lens “A Gorilla Win”.