Gorilla gorilla gorilla
IUCN Status: Critically endangered
At Port Lympne we have 21 Western lowland gorillas in 3 different areas. The Palace of the Apes houses a family group of 12; a silverback, 8 adult females and 3 young males. We also have 9 bachelor males living in 2 separate areas away from the family group.
All gorillas (of which there are 4 sub-species) are Critically Endangered. There are now only 95,000 Western lowland gorillas, 90% less than 10 years ago, due to poaching for “bush meat”, habitat destruction through logging and farming, and diseases like Ebola.
Between Port Lympne and our sister park Howletts we have had 138 births since our first in 1975.
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Gorillas are the largest of the great apes with adult males (known as silverbacks because of the grey hair over their backs) sometimes weighing over 200kg. Adult females are generally half that weight.
Gorillas live in family groups consisting of one adult male, several adult females and their offspring. Females usually give birth to one baby after a gestation of around 8 ½ months (twins have occurred in captivity). Infants are weaned around 3 years old.
Western lowland gorillas come from central West Africa living in dense forests and swamps of Gabon, Cameroon, Congo and Equatorial Guinea. They are predominantly vegetarian eating a variety of leaves, fruits, shoots etc. but have been observed eating ants and termites. They spend most of the day foraging for food.
Working with the Aspinall Foundation, Howletts and Port Lympne have pioneered the release of captive born gorillas into the wild. Baby gorillas orphaned by the bush meat trade in these countries have been raised by the Aspinall Foundation and taught how to survive in the wild. These orphans, and the captive born gorillas, are released into reserves covering over a million acres of Congo and Gabon which the Aspinall Foundation helps protect and manage. This project has given a safe home to over 50 gorillas, which have had more than 30 babies, and to all the other wildlife living alongside them.