Gorilla: Key Facts

Did you know that every gorilla has a unique nose print? Or that gorillas are only found in a couple of regions in Africa? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll explore these and other gorilla key facts!

Quick Facts About Gorillas

Scientific Name:Gorilla
Type of Animal:Mammal; primate
Number of Species:2 species; 4 subspecies
Physical Description:Large ape with black fur; dominant adult males develop a silver pattern on their backs. Males are much larger than females. Both males and females have long, muscular arms and shorter legs. Though covered in black fur, they have less fur on the face and chest/abdominal area.
Distribution:Found only in parts of Africa: Uganda, Rwanda, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Habitat:Habitat varies by species; mountain gorillas live in mountainous regions, while lowland gorillas live in swampy lowland areas. All subspecies live in areas of dense tropical forest.
Size:– Males: 5’5” to 6’; 300 to 500 pounds
– Females: 4’1” to 5 feet; 150 to 200 pounds
Diet:Primarily herbivorous; foods include:
– Leaves
– Stems
– Bark
– Bamboo shoots
– Fruit
– Some insects
Lifespan:35 to 40 years

What is a Gorilla?

Gorillas are the largest, strongest primates in the world. They are found only in equatorial regions of Africa.

Most people are familiar with the gorilla’s black fur and muscular appearance. Male and female gorillas differ greatly in size, with the males being quite a bit larger than the females.

Though incredibly strong and powerful (check out this comparison), gorillas are primarily gentle creatures that eat a mostly plant-based diet. They spend much of their time foraging for their next meal, as they can eat up to 40 pounds of food every day.

Gorillas live in social groups of mostly females led by a dominant male. Males occasionally compete for dominance by beating their chest, though they rarely fight.

Each female gorilla has only one baby every few years. This slow reproductive rate has made it difficult for gorillas to recover from declining populations.

There are two species of gorilla, the eastern and western species. These are further divided into four subspecies: the western lowland gorillas, the grauer’s (or eastern lowland) gorillas, the mountain gorillas, and the cross river gorillas.

All four subspecies are considered endangered or critically endangered. Habitat loss, poaching, and disease are all major factors that have contributed to their declining numbers.

What are Some Interesting Gorilla Facts?

  • Gorillas share 98 percent of our DNA: Genetically speaking, gorillas are one of our closest relatives. Their DNA is 98.6 percent identical to that of humans; only chimpanzees and bonobos are more closely related to us.
  • They are highly intelligent: Gorillas have been observed using sticks to measure the depth of water, showing their young how to use bamboo stalks as “ladders,” and using twigs to scoop up insects to eat. One captive gorilla, Koko, learned to use about 1,000 sign language signs and could understand about 2,000 words in English. As you can see, gorillas are incredibly smart!
  • They have unique nose prints: Though gorillas may all look the same to a casual observer, each one has a unique shape to their nose–much like every human has a unique set of fingerprints. Because of this, scientists can tell individual gorillas apart.

For more fun gorilla facts, check out this video:


Gorillas are the gentle giants of the primate world. These endangered apes are found in parts of Africa and are known for their size and strength, their intelligence, and their impressive chest-pounding, which is used for various communication purposes.

Read also about other forest mammals – here are our guides about sloth, wild boar, and wolf.

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