Lorna Anness, a Karisoke researcher, note taking in the rain wrote, "How close they get surprised me--I was shocked. And their tolerance--a mother would allow an infant to come right up and touch you."
Family Groups Primates, in general, are very social animals, and mountain gorillas are no
exception. They live in small family groups consisting of varying numbers of males,
females, infants, and juveniles. Each group is led by a dominant male gorilla. The
dominant silverback protects his group and leads in the
search for food. In most monkey populations, the females stay with their family, while the
males leave their groups at adolescence. In effect, mothers, daughters, sisters, and
grandmothers stay together in family groups. A different social structure emerges among
gorillas--females leave their family and join other groups. Above
left: This family group reached a membership of thirty-five,
including four silverbacks. Photo: Courtesy of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
Since gorillas are highly social animals, they try to defend one another when danger threatens. For example, poachers trying to get a baby gorilla often have to kill the dominant silverback and mother first. The death of one animal also has an effect on many others. In particular, when the dominant silverback of a family group dies or is killed by disease, accident, or poachers, the family group may be severely disrupted. The large family group may split into two or more smaller groups. When a new silverback takes control of a family group, he may kill all of the infants of the dead silverback. This practice of infanticide is seen in various monkeys, prairie dogs, and lions (to name a few animals). It is an effective reproductive strategy in that the new male conceives progeny that perpetuate his genes. In stable peaceful groups, there is no apparent evidence of infanticide. Photo: Courtesy of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
Gorillas' Communication Gorillas are active in communicating with each other by both sounds and body language. Many of their actions reflect the hierarchy or pecking order of the group. Here a silverback makes a "threat gesture" by turning sideways to show his size and "yawning" to exhibit his large canine teeth.
Gorillas are known to make over twenty-five distinct sounds. Some of these areas follows:
Gorillas also love to play. Here, two gorillas play their favorite game,
'gotcha'! Photos: Courtesy of
the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
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