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About Silverback Gorillas

Gorillas are the world’s largest living apes divided into two species of Eastern gorillas and Western gorillas. Eastern gorillas are further sub divided into Eastern low land gorillas and Mountain gorillas while Western gorillas are sub divided into western low land gorillas and Cross river gorillas.

Gorillas are gentle, quiet and shy animals that socialize even showing affection in their groups but can become extremely aggressive when disturbed or feel insecure. The main threat to gorilla population is poaching and habitat loss and sometimes leopards in the wilderness.

Silverback gorillas

Silverbacks are older male gorillas that develop a patch of silver like or greyish hair on their shoulders and behind their backs as they age. Only male gorillas can become silverbacks although a gorilla is considered mature at the age of 8 years old, they start to develop grey hair at around the age of twelve years old.

Only one silverback male can dominate a gorilla family with several females, infants, juveniles and other young adult males. The silverback is the only male with breeding rights to all the females in the group.

Silverback gorillas are group leaders defining and dictating all the family activities like feeding time, resting time, where it forages, sleeping time and where to sleep. Silverbacks can consume up to 45 pounds of vegetation in a day.

A silverback gorilla will display aggressive behaviour towards other males especially from other groups or those within the group trying to challenge it. Silverbacks are always responsible for the group safety and will fight even if it will cost its life to ensure the group is safe from other silverbacks, leopards or any form of harm.

Silverbacks express their anger by beating chests with capped hands, throwing vegetation, screaming, bare teeth and if the intruder persists then the silverback will eventually charge and destroy or even kill the intruder.

When a gorilla becomes a silverback, they will live their maternal group and become lone males and later try t grab females from other groups, join other males of the same age bracket or fight the dominating silverback in their maternal group in order to take over the leadership.

Silverback gorillas always have a distinction from adult female gorillas that is they can weigh up to 400 pounds, they have larger heads and can grow up to 6 feet tall compared to female mountain gorillas whose heads are smaller, weigh less and can grow up to 4 feet tall.

Silverbacks are sometimes known for killing all the young males in the group their leading in order to avoid them becoming a threat to their leadership in future.

In case a female mountain gorilla dies and lives their young behind, a silverback will try to bring up and protect the baby mountain gorilla. When a dominating silverback dies the second oldest silverback in the group will take over leadership and if there is no other silverback in the group then it will get dispersed or females will join other groups or lone males.


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