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5TF: Our Research Interns Answer YOUR Questions!-Part 2

Question 1

How do you know when gorillas are female or male?

When gorillas are young (up to about 8 years), it is difficult to tell males and females apart as they are roughly the same size. The one guaranteed way to determine sex in a younger individual is to look at their genitals.  However, at maturity, gorillas are sexually dimorphic, meaning males and females have different physical characteristics making them easily identifiable! Adult male gorillas, or silverbacks, will be close to twice the size of the females, have silver hair on their back, and have large bumps on the top of their heads called sagittal crests!

Even with these indicators, it sometimes may be hard to tell young males and adult females apart. In fact, even Dian Fossey once mixed up a female and male! Because sub-adult males can look similar to adult females, Fossey thought one gorilla was a male until she gave birth!

Question 2

What is the average lifespan of a mountain gorilla?

The average age expectancy for our studied mountain gorilla populations is about 30 years old. Canstbee was our longest living male at 37 years and Poppy our longest living female at 42 years.


Question 3

What made you want to work with and for gorillas?

Liz: That’s a great question! And everyone you ask will probably have a different answer. For me, I became a researcher because I really want to contribute to the greater understanding of gorillas and other species. I believe it is really important that we as human beings understand Earth’s wildlife and biodiversity because a greater understanding will ultimately aid in conservation efforts and saving our ecosystems. 

Ellen: Honestly, I came to research primates, and specifically gorillas, by accident. I’ve always had a passion for research and as a student I took any opportunity to study animals I could find. Through a variety of research projects, I came to love working with primates, which eventually led me to the Fossey Fund. Now I’m proud to be working towards the goal of saving these amazing animals and their habitat

Question 4

How can we volunteer?

This is probably our #1 most asked question. We don’t currently take volunteers, our efforts are focused on providing opportunities for young Rwandans and Congolese who are interested in conservation to work with us. 

But, if you want to help the gorillas, the number one way you can help is by supporting the work we do by donating, adopting a gorilla or creating a fund raising page. You can also make small changes in your lifestyle, like the actions we talked about in Fact 4. Educating your friends and family about conservation and the small, earth- friendly changes they can make in their lives is another great way to expand the impact of what we do. 

Question 5

What actions or behavioral changes can we all make to help?

We’ll share a couple of good tips to help wildlife around the world, including, but not limited to the gorillas!

Make sure the products you are buying are sustainably sourced – whether that be wood and paper products, palm oil products, or products that involve animals and animal labor. It’s very important that we don’t overuse our resources! For gorillas specifically, recycling old cell phones is very important as some of the materials used to build phones are sourced from gorilla habitats.

It is also important to make sure you aren’t supporting any illegal trades, including the illegal wildlife trade through the purchase of things like ivory, or the exotic pet trade.  And finally, when you do go see animals in the wild, always be respectful and follow the rules—they are designed to protect both the animals and you!