Fri, February 7, 2020

Your Questions Answered

See which questions made the list this month!

Question 1: Do gorillas use tools?

Unlike chimpanzees, gorillas in the wild are rarely seen using tools. However, gorillas have been observed testing water depth using sticks and making bridges out of shrubs and branches to cross narrow waterways. Additionally,  gorillas in zoo-housed settings frequently use, showing that they have the cognitive capability to engage in such behavior but because of their diet in the wild, they really don’t need to. You may see gorillas using small sticks to dig out food that keepers hide for them in objects like artificial termite mounds and other puzzles.

Question 2: Do gorillas ever climb trees?

This depends on which subspecies of gorillas. The mountain gorillas we study in Rwanda are the most terrestrial of all the gorilla subspecies, likely in part because of the vegetation found in their mountain homes—there are fewer large trees and very little fruit.   The other subspecies of gorillas, however, often are in trees to gather food and also to build their evening nests. 

Question 3:  Is there food competition among gorillas?

Their diet varies depending on where they live but consists primarily of leaves—what scientists often refer to as terrestrial herbaceous vegetation. They also eat fruit, bamboo, roots, and even occasionally dirt. Their greater reliance on leaves, which are more readily available than fruit, is likely why they are able to live in more cohesive groups than say chimpanzees and orangutans, which often have to forage on their own to find enough fruit.  

Question 4: Do female gorillas beat their chests?

When you think of chest beating, you probably think of a huge silverback signaling to another male that he’s in charge. However, anyone in a gorilla group, even females and juveniles, may be seen chest beating. 

A female will usually chest beat if she is quarreling with another female group member, or if a juvenile is aggravating her. Juveniles also chest beat when they want to initiate playtime with other gorillas. 

Question 5: What do gorillas smell like?

You’ll probably smell a gorilla before you see it. Male gorillas have a strong musky odor that becomes especially prominent during times of aggravation or fright. To us, gorillas smell like a mix of body odor and onions!

Go here for the latest gorilla news and updates!

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