DO MOUNTAIN GORILLAS LIVE IN FAMILIES, MOUNTAIN GORILLA GROUPS?

People have families. Mountain gorillas have families too. A gorilla family/group is called a troop. Each troop is made up of 5 to 30 individuals. The biggest gorilla group known to date was found in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park: It consisted of 65 individuals for a short period. A gorilla family travel together, eats together, and sleeps in the same location.

Mountain gorillas hardly ever live alone. Living in a family is safer. The family is led by a strong dorminant male known as ‘silverback’ for the silvery back patches which signal full adulthood.

The silverback is usually the biggest gorilla in the group. He leads the family through the forest. He protects it from danger. He will bark and hoot as he structures the activities of the day, which often includes eating, nesting in leaves, and moving within a home range of roughly 16 square miles. He his center of attention during rest sessions, and young gorillas usually stay close to him and include him in their game.

A gorilla group usually has a few male gorillas called blackbacks, too.  Blackbacks are young than silverbacks. A blackback’s fur has not yet turned silvery. Several female gorillas, youngsters, and little babies make up the rest of the family.

One of the most interesting mountain gorilla facts is that one silverback has a right to own all adult females in the family and hence cannot allow any male gorilla to come close to females. Any attempt by a different silverback to come closer to females will automatically erupt into a fight. A dominant silverback mates will all adult females hence he is the father of all baby gorillas in the family. Just like in a human home, there can’t be two fathers in one home.

When male gorillas in the family reach the age of 11 years, they leave their family although it’s always hard to join any established group. They are looked at as enemies to the group. Adult males first spend most of their time in isolation not until they attract females and form their group. Females normally leave at the age of 8 years to join the new group formed before breeding.

Interactions between gorilla groups are endlessly fascinating. Interactions require considerable multitasking for males, as they have to protect their group, try to attract females from other groups, and try to prevent their females from leaving. Not surprisingly, interactions can be very intense, with a lot of male posturing and displaying. However, they can also be peaceful, with groups intermingling for hours.

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