Lowland gorillas live in the tropical forests of several African countries, including Cameroon, Congo, Central African Republic, Angola and Equatorial Guinea. These herbivores feed primarily on leaves, fruit, bark and stems. They live to be about 35 years old in the wild, on average, and can live up to 50 years in captivity.
Gorilla Male (Silverback)
Gorilla Female (with child)
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Mammalia
Order - Primates
Suborder - Haplorhini
Family - Homonidae
Genus - Gorilla
Species - G. gorilla
Common Names - Lowland Gorilla, Western Gorilla, Western Lowland Gorilla
Lowland gorillas have dark brownish-gray coats made up of shorter hairs than their cousins, the mountain gorillas. Older males often end up as “silverbacks,” with gray hair covering their backs. Lowland gorillas have black skin, a prominent brow and small eyes. They are a bit smaller than mountain gorillas, with adults weighing 150 to 400 pounds and having a standing height of 4 to 6 feet.
In most cases, the dominant male in a group of lowland gorillas mates with the mature females. There is no set breeding season, so mating can occur throughout the year. Females have an average gestation period of nine months before giving birth to one offspring. Young gorillas become independent around 3 to 4 years of age. Until that point, the mother cares for them. Male lowland gorillas do not help raise offspring, but they do protect them from other male gorillas who pose a threat.
Lowland gorillas gather in groups of up to 15 individuals, called troops, which include a dominant male, several females and offspring. The dominant male leads the group unless another male manages to replace him. Lowland gorillas have a shy and gentle nature, although they can become fierce when threatened. Even then, they often charge or growl and beat their chests to scare off intruders, rather than attacking them. Lowland gorillas communicate through facial expressions, vocalizations and physical postures.
Lowland gorillas have declined by more than 60 percent during the last 20 to 25 years, mainly from the Ebola virus and poaching. Their range has also decreased due to habitat loss. In 2008, a survey released by the Wildlife Conservation Society showed that 125,000 lowland gorillas were found in the Republic of Congo, which has helped boost their numbers overall.
Lowland gorillas are classified as a Critically Endangered species. They’ve experienced a steep population decline from disease and hunting, along with continued habitat loss and low reproductive rates. Conservation efforts include stricter enforcement of laws protecting this species and improved Ebola virus prevention.