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Home » Information » Who is Considered to Be a Silverback in a Mountain Gorilla Family

Who is Considered to Be a Silverback in a Mountain Gorilla Family

Mountain gorillas inhabit fourgorilla safari tour and uganda National parks in only three (3) countries of the world. They are labeled as critically endangered with a few hundreds of them remaining for the world to see and take care of.

In the countries of Congo DR, Rwanda and Uganda (which are all situated on the African continent), tourists get the opportunity of an unforgettable encounter with one of the greatest species of animals that has ever lived on earth.

Fortunately, conservation efforts create hope of the continued existence of the mountain gorillas.
Mountain gorillas whether (habituated or wild) live in families of varying sizes including members of different ages, sexes, expertise, heights, weights and characters.

But a phrase we often hear in blog posts and publications about mountain gorillas, is “Silverback” or “Silverback Mountain Gorilla”.

Silverback mountain gorillas are the older males in a gorilla family and are often the larger ones of the group’s members.

The thickness of black hair that the males have is greater than that of any other members of the family. The basis for the label, “silver-back”, is principally because of the silvery hairs on the backs of these mature males; a characteristic that is confined to only a few members in the family.

Adult female mountain gorillas give birth to their sons hoping that they will live long enough to at least become silver-backs or even better; an Alpha Silverback (the leading light of the mountain gorilla family).

The infant male gorillas grow into juveniles, and when they are between the ages of eight (8) and twelve (12) they hold the title of a black-back.

From the age of thirteen (13) and beyond, the males begin to grow short shiny hairs on their backs; a sign of maturity and not specifically old age.

At this age the male begins to bond and mate with some of the adult females in the mountain gorilla family.

After thirteen (13) years, the males’ apocrine glands become active (these glands are located in the silver-back’s armpits).

They use these glands to develop an unfriendly odor that significantly notifies intruders of their presence in the territory. At this age they also grow large canines which aren’t for feeding but are used as lethal weapons during fights with their enemies.

Silverbacks are never expected to be big babies; but with maturity comes great responsibility. In instances where there is only one silverback in the family, he has to perform a long list of duties on his own with minimal assistance from the subordinate black-backs.

If the silverback welcomes you during a gorilla tracking safari, then you can be assured of an amazing sixty (60) minutes with his family.

Silverbacks, like fathers and adult males in the community, serve a long list of activities. They lead other members, they intervene in times of conflicts in the family; they make decisions for the family on matters like where to feed from and where to nest from; but their greatest duty is to protect their families even if it means losing their own lives. Perhaps this is why they often look ferocious when they see something which is not one of their own.

Silver-backs are often used in photos when explaining what gorillas look like, and they form the higher levels of authority in the mountain gorilla family. But it is far more interesting to have a private encounter with these gorilla males during a Safari to one of the three countries of Uganda, Rwanda and Congo DR; where you can observe their appearance a lot more, and can understand what a true leader ought to be like.

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