From Infancy to Adulthood An Exploration Of The Facts About These Stunning Baby Primates
Despite being the largest of the primate species, gorilla babies are actually very small and vulnerable. While they may grow to be bigger and stronger than humans, babies are considerably smaller.
They are however, incredibly cute and loving. They’re so adorable that it’s hard to believe that they grow up to be the powerful animals that they are. But, if they can survive the odds, they do, and in this post we’re going to take a closer look at these lovable primates, and explore some amazing baby gorilla facts.
8 Amazing Baby Gorilla Facts
Baby Gorillas Are Called Infants
Similarly to baby humans and their other primate cousin – baby monkeys, a baby gorilla is called an ‘infant‘. They are born in a ‘nest‘, and mothers usually give birth in solitude, during the night and up in the safety of the trees.
Female gorillas have no gender specific name, but adult male gorillas are known as ‘silverbacks‘. Juvenile males are called ‘blackbacks‘.
There is no specific collective noun for a group of baby gorillas, but a group of adults with their babies is collectively called a ‘band‘ or a ‘troop‘ of gorillas.
Most Births Are Single Offspring
Baby gorillas are born after a gestation period of between 8 and 9 months, nearly as long as humans! Mothers usually only give birth to a single infant from a pregnancy. Twins do happen, but are generally rare for both the Eastern Gorilla and Western Gorilla species. It is more rare for gorillas to have twins than it is for humans.
Mothers tend to raise one baby at a time, with a gap of around 4 years between pregnancies. That gives them plenty of time and resources to dedicate to raising their offspring.
Baby Gorillas Have A High Mortality Rate
Tragically, 40% of newborn gorillas do not survive. As a result, an adult female may produce only one surviving offspring every 6 to 8 years. Across their entire lives, they may only have between 2-6 surviving offspring.
This illustrates the difficulty that gorillas and conservationists face in recovering the population of these species. Given the number of gorillas left in the world, recovery could take a very long time and lots of effort.
Baby Gorillas Stay Very Close To Their Mothers
For around the first six months of their lives, baby gorillas are in constant contact with their mothers. They will take a ride on their mothers back, and are carried often, particularly at first. Mothers are attentive at grooming, feeding and protecting their young, without being overbearing. They are effective parents, without ‘smothering’ or over attending to their young.
Even once infant gorillas grow into juveniles, to around the age of 2 and a half to 3, they will continue to nurse before becoming fully weaned.
Baby Gorillas Develop Quicker Than Human Babies
While they may be similar to other primates like humans in many ways, baby gorillas develop quicker than human babies do. The mother gorilla holds her new-born infant belly-to-belly for close contact until it develops the strength and coordination to cling onto her hair at about 2 months.
They start to smile, bounce and play by the time they reach 2 months old, and it’s only around another week or so until they start crawling.
By three months of age they are exploring their habitat and manipulating objects and by about 5 months they are able to stand. By the time they reach 6 or 7 months of age, they are able to walk competently and will start to climb and balance on their mothers back.
Baby Gorillas Receive Community Care
While the mother is the primary caregiver for newborn gorillas, all members of a troop have a part to play in the upbringing of babies.
As the babies of a troop are still in their infancy, siblings and other juvenile family members, both male and female, often step up to assist their mother. They do this by taking on responsibilities such as cradling the babies or playing with them, keeping them entertained.
It really is a group effort, and similar to the way remote tribal and nomadic populations of human still raise their young – as a community.
Baby Gorillas Prefer To Nest In The Trees
When they grow up, gorillas prefer to make their nests on the ground. They don’t have many natural predators when they grow up, and they have safety in numbers. Also, adult males are very heavy. Much heavier than monkeys and chimpanzees. Climbing trees is not as easy or beneficial for silverback gorillas.
Baby gorillas however, are nested with their mothers in the safety of the trees. Once they are able to create their own nest, infant and juvenile gorillas will continue to nest in the trees. Eventually they will transition to the ground when they grow into young adults.
They make their nests out of foliage, leaves and branches, and usually round in shape. It is common for a gorilla to change the location of its nest as often as every day.
They are nomadic by nature, moving around a large territory to find food and shelter. So they will nest where the troop move to rather than returning to a ‘home base’ every night.
Baby Gorillas Live In Large Groups
Like other primate species, gorillas like to live in groups. Babies usually live with their mothers, along with several other females, and between one to four male silverbacks, depending on the species.
The Western Lowland species tend to have one dominant male with several females and their infants in a troop. Juvenile and young adult ‘blackback’ offspring make up the remainder of the troop. Young males may decide to stay with the troop, or venture off to start their own.
Occasionally young adult males will form a ‘bachelor’ group, or set out on their own. But they are generally social and not solitary animals.
A troop of gorillas can vary in size between 5 and 50 – depending on both the species, their habitat and the manor of the troop. Batchelor troops for example, tend to be small but maternal troops can be very large. The average troop size is between 20-30 gorillas.
Baby Gorilla FAQs
What Is the Lifecycle Of A Baby Gorilla?
Gorillas carry their young in the womb for between 8 to 9 months after conception. Once born, gorillas remain infants for around the first three years, then juvenile until between the ages of 7-9. Females mature quicker than males, and most gorillas will mature quicker in captivity than in the wild. For example, male Western Lowland Gorillas sexually mature in the wild between 8 to 9 years old and in captivity as early as 6 years old.
When they reach sexual maturity, they are generally considered to be young adults. Males are not considered fully mature until about 15 years old.
Males remain with their natal group until about age 12, then begin to go off on their own. Solitary males try to attract females from other groups to form their own group.
Gorillas live 30 – 40 years in the wild; 40 – 60 years in captivity.
How Many Baby Gorillas Are Born In A Litter?
In the vast majority of cases, only one gorilla is born from each pregnancy. Twins can occur, but it is very rare.
How Big Are Baby Gorillas?
At birth, infant gorillas weigh 4 – 5 pounds (1.8 – 2.3 kilograms) and have sparse hair covering their pink-grey skin.
As adults, males can stand as tall as 175 centimetres (69 inches) and weigh 165 kilograms (360 pounds). Male Eastern Lowland Gorillas are almost twice as large as females.
What Do Baby Gorillas Eat?
Baby gorillas start out on a diet of their mothers milk, and remain on this alone for the first 2 to three months after birth. From there, they will start to introduce some vegetation into their diet.
Eastern lowland gorillas grow up to mostly eat leaves and other vegetation rather than fruit.
The diet of the Western lowland gorilla on the other hand includes parts of at least 97 plant species, as well as invertebrates, such as termites and ants.
Where Do Baby Gorillas Live?
Baby gorillas live in large family units called troops. These groups vary in size but average around 30 individuals within the troop. In terms of location, the two distinct species inhabit different areas of Africa.
The Western Lowland Gorilla lives in the tropical rainforests spread across six countries across west equatorial Africa which include: southeast Nigeria, Gabon, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo and Equatorial Guinea.
The Eastern lowland gorilla is found only in the tropical forests of eastern Zaire, Africa.
Natural Predators Of Baby Gorillas
Gorillas in general are masters of their domain. They are alphas and don’t have many predators around them that would succeed in taking them down. Babies, however, are vulnerable to attack from big cats, particularly leopards that are brave enough to take advantage of any given ‘snatch and grab’ opportunity.
The leopard may also attack adult females, particularly if weak or sick, but they will avoid silverbacks.
The other, and most brutal predator of gorillas, are humans. While illegal, poaching and hunting for meat, fur and ‘medicines’ is still a major threat despite conservation efforts.