It is the smallest gorilla subspecies, and its members are critically endangered. Western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) live in the forests and swamps of central Africa, with most of them in Republic of the Congo. They are endangered largely because of loss of habitat and poaching.
There are over 100,000 western lowland gorillas in the wild in Africa and 550 of them in zoos around the world. Almost all of the gorillas you see in zoos are western lowland gorillas. Even though they are small as gorillas go, a male can weigh up to 600 pounds (270 kg). They have black skin, and they are covered with black hair except for their face, ears, hands, and feet. As the males get older, the fur on their backs turns gray, and they are known as “silverbacks.”
Western lowland gorillas frequently stand erect, but when they walk, it’s on all fours with their knuckles on the ground. These gorillas have strong jaw muscles and large molars for grinding their high-fiber diet of plant material, fruits, and vegetables. They can eat 40 pounds (18 kg) of food in a day.
These gorillas live in family groups of four to eight members. The newborns weigh about 4 pounds (less than 2 kg) and cling to their mothers and ride on her back for two or three years. They depend on their mothers for up to five years. They are intelligent animals capable of making natural materials into tools for obtaining food. Gorillas in captivity have demonstrated the ability to learn sign language from humans.
Western lowland gorillas play an important role in the ecology of the forests where they live. Because they eat a large amount of fruit, they disperse the seeds over a wide area. Seed dispersal allows plants to grow which in turn feed other animals. If the gorillas become extinct, other animals will be endangered. God has given these gorillas an important role to play in the balance of living things in the forests of central Africa.
© Roland Earnst