Africa is home to the gorilla, a Great Ape found nowhere else on Earth. They are divided into two species – Western (Gorilla gorilla) and Eastern (Gorilla beringei). There are a total of four subspecies –

the Western (Gorilla gorilla),

  • the Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli)
  • the Western lowland gorilla

the Eastern gorilla (Gorilla berinei beringei),

  • Eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri)
  • mountain gorilla

They can be found in eight countries across central and west Africa. These four sub-species of these primates live in the forests of central Africa – in Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola, the two Congo republics, Rwanda and Uganda.

The highly endangered Mountain gorilla is restricted to just two highland areas on the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. Deforestation, poaching, human disease and war once took them to the brink of extinction, but a census in 2004 identified an increase in numbers in recent years. Still only a few hundred Mountain gorillas remain in the wild, and since there are none in captivity, the future of the entire species depends on their survival.

Though still classified as endangered, the Lowland gorilla (photos right) is far more numerous than its mountain cousin, with a combined wild population of around 120,000, on the eastern and western rims of the Congo Basin. Though,they too face extinction.

None of the three great apes is considered ancestral to modern man, Homo sapiens, but they remain the only other type of extant primate with which human beings share such close physical characteristics [see photos, right]. From them we may learn much concerning the behavior of our earliest primate prototypes, because behavior, unlike bones, teeth, or tools, does not fossilize.” – Dian Fossey

Gorilla Species

Eastern Gorilla

  • Mountain Gorilla
  • Grauer’s Gorilla

Western Gorilla

  • Western Lowland Gorillas
  • Cross River Gorillas

All About Gorillas

Physical Characteristics

The gorilla is massive, with a short, thick trunk and broad chest and shoulders. Its eyes and ears are dwarfed by its large head and hairless, shiny black muzzle; older males develop a crown of muscle and hair that makes the head look even longer. The arms are longer than the stubby legs, the thumb and big toe of gorillas oppose the other digits (fingers/toes), enabling them to grasp and manipulate objects, Gorillas have a distinctive shape in that their stomachs are larger than their chests. Gorillas’ nose regions are very distinctive in terms of the shape and wrinkles and are used by researchers to distinguish individual animals in the field and unlike other animals, gorillas have no tails.

Habitats and food

All gorilla families live in the deep tropical rain forests which are thick. They are herbivorous and therefore feed on vegetation but although they eat a variety of plants, their favorites include wild celery, bamboo, thistles, stinging nettles, bed-straw and certain fruit. These plants seem to provide sufficient moisture so that gorillas do not need water.


Gorillas live in families just like human beings. Each gorilla family is headed by the dominant silver back who acts like a father in a home making decisions on when his group wakes up, eats, moves and rests for the night. The females nurse the young ones just like mothers in human families. Each member is much attached to its family in that when groups meet and mingle and then subsequently part, each animal tends to remain with its respective.Gorillas continually wander through their home ranges of 10 to 15 square miles, feeding and resting throughout the day and they build new nests each day at dusk, constructing them of bent branches in a tree or of grasses on the ground. In case of any attack, gorillas scream, grab foliage and stuff it in their mouths, stand erect on their hind legs, tear up and throw plants, drum on the chest with hands or fists, stamp their feet, strike the ground with the palms of their hands and gallop in a mock attack to chase the enemies away.


Habitat loss is the most threat to the gorillas. Due to the fact that they live in the forested areas which have fertile soils for agriculture, local communities in the neighborhood are always encroaching on the forest for extensive land. Predators are another threat, leopards, lions and humans who peach these species is a very big threat to the rare mountain gorillas. Also, due to the closeness to human beings, the mountain gorillas are so susceptible to human diseases which put them at risk.


Gorillas mate throughout the year with the gestation period of 8.5-9 months pregnancy period after which a gorilla gives birth to one baby who weighs about 3-4 ibs. They learn to crawl at about 2 months and are walking by the time they are around 8 or 9 months. Mother gorillas nurse their babies for about 3 years, following which the young become more independent.In conclusion, gorillas are peaceful, animals in that they rarely attack human beings, some of these gorilla groups such as the mountain gorillas among others have been habituated in that they can interact with people peacefully, however, they still remain wild, people especially travelers are required to keep a distance of 7 meters from the gorillas and avoid making noise or pointing to the gorillas during the interaction.

Would you like to see the gorillas in the wild? Why not book a gorilla safari and hike in the jungles of the tropical rain forests in Africa to see the mountain gorillas. Check out our listing of recommended tour operators in Africa.