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Your Questions Answered—Part 5


How long does the habituation process take?

Habituation is a slow process of making the gorillas or other animals used to the presence of humans. This may look like standing very far away from a gorilla for a short period of time to eventually standing within 15 feet for long periods of time. This process can take years of everyday exposure for gorillas to feel completely comfortable around a group of humans. The mountain gorilla groups we protect have already been habituated for decades, but we’re still in the process of habituating some of the Grauer’s gorilla groups.


How many people in Africa does the Fossey Fund employ?

The Fossey Fund has two offices – our administrative office in Atlanta, GA, where we are based, and our field site in Rwanda! In Rwanda, we employ over 100 trackers that are local to the area, as well as directors and managers for our education, research, and conservation programs! Stay tuned for a future episode where you’ll get to meet some of our staff in Rwanda!


How do young gorillas learn?

One of the ways gorillas learn is through a process called social learning, meaning they learn through observing and imitating the behavior of others. Young gorillas watch their parents and other adults navigate through life to learn how to be a gorilla! One great example is nest building. Every night gorillas will make their nests to sleep in, and young gorillas will first observe the adults in their group building their nest before they are able to imitate them and make their own.


Why are gorilla bellies always so large?

Gorilla stomachs are much larger than our own and other primate species. Similar to other herbivorous species like cows,  they need larger intestines than omnivores or carnivores in order to digest the high volume of fibrous vegetation that they eat on a daily basis. Their large gut also allows storage and fermentation of some of their diet.


Do gorillas cry?

Much like people, gorillas definitely have emotions, and they can feel distress. Gorillas may cry out as vocalizations, but they actually don’t produce tears like humans do when we cry. Gorillas produce tears in order to lubricate their eyes, but tear production as a form of distress is completely unique to humans within the primate species!