The gorilla, largest of the primates, can grow to a standing height of up to 6 ½ ft and can weigh 500 lbs. They are considered to be one of several species of apes that are closely related to humans. Their arms are longer than their legs, and they walk on all fours on the ground where they spend much of their day searching for shoots, vines, fruits and berries. At night they sleep in nests of twigs and leaves built in the trees.
The young remain in the nests where the mother will nurse them until they are old enough to descend to the ground. They live in groups with the oldest and largest male gorilla at the head. He determines the group's activity and is also responsible for the their protection. When threatened the male will beat his chest and charge at the enemy. Young males leave the family group when they are older and will live a solitary existence until they can create their own family group. There is no particular mating season and females give birth to 1 offspring. At birth, the infant is helpless and weighs only about 3 to 4 lbs. They will continue to nurse for nearly 3 years.
Eastern Lowland gorillas are found in the Cameroons, Gabon, and Zaire. There is less than 5,000 in existence. Mountain gorillas live in Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania. Their coat is black when young, but when they become 10 years and older their coat begins to turn gray. The shape of their face can vary, as well as their facial expressions, but their nostrils are always flared. Mountain gorillas are endangered with only about 700 remaining.
The Cross River Gorilla is the rarest of the gorilla family and is seriously endangered. They live among the trees deep in the tropical forests of Africa from southern Nigeria to the Congo River. There are estimated to be less than 150 to 200 remaining. The decline in their population is due mainly to hunting, forest clearing for agriculture and timber, and petroleum exploration.