The gorilla is a mammal in the Primate order, the same order as man. It is the largest anthropomorphic monkey: an adult male may be over two meters tall and weigh more than 250 kilograms. There are two species of gorilla: the Western Gorilla [Gorilla gorilla] and the Eastern Gorilla [Gorilla beringei]. The mountain gorilla [Gorilla beringei beringei], the most widely known subspecies, belongs to the latter species. Gorillas live near the equator in forested regions in Africa where vegetation is not too dense. The gorilla is not a skillful climber and mostly lives on the ground, resting on the knuckles of its upper limbs as it moves around. It eats grass, sprouts and fruit, which it looks for early in the morning and at dusk. It spends the hottest hours of the day resting. Gorillas live in groups of around ten individuals: one male, his two or three mates, and their young. The male is the leader, and stands out at a mature age thanks to the lighter-colored fur on his back. The male protects the group from predators like leopards, but must also confront rival males wishing to usurp his place. When a rival approaches, the leader first tries to scare him away by beating his fists on his chest and showing his teeth. If this is not enough, he will physically attack the opponent. Females have a nine-month gestation period, and give birth to a single infant, which requires almost three years of personal care before becoming independent. The gorilla and the chimpanzee are the animals that are the most genetically similar to man. For centuries, Gorillas’ imposing physical presence led mankind to consider them fierce and aggressive. A perfect example of this stereotype is the giant gorilla featured in the movie King Kong. Only in the second half of the 1900s did the first animal behavior studies reveal that they are in fact docile and very intelligent: a captive female gorilla named Koko has been able to learn hundreds of sign language words, and even use them to form basic sentences.
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