No-one misses a visit to meet the gorillas at Werribee. These endlessly fascinating creatures, which are from the same family as humans and chimpanzees, are so like ourselves – they even giggle when amused!
Gorillas are native to Angola, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. They are classed as ‘critically endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (on the IUCN ‘red list’). These critically endangered animals are vulnerable to habitat loss from logging, mining, hunting (even though they are protected) and the Ebola virus. It is not known how many remain in the wild, but it is known that these numbers are decreasing.
One of the gorillas now at Werribee has been part of an international breeding program and the two younger males may be called on to join family groups as breeding males at some time in the future. Werribee is an important regional ‘male holding’ facility.
A visit to Werribee is an opportunity to learn more about the plight of gorillas in the wild and be inspired to take action to save them before it is too late. Learn about how coltan mining is causing catastrophic impacts on endangered wildlife such as the gorilla. The exhibit’s name, Gorillas Calling, is linked to Zoos Victoria’s mobile phone recycling campaign, They’re Calling on You, which supports the Jane Goodall Institute in conserving Africa’s primate species.
The Western Lowland Gorilla lives in troops of up to 30 gorillas. The groups are usually harmonious since there are no marked friendships between gorillas in a group. Distinct friendships can lead to jealousies and squabbling.
The leader of the group will usually be a dominant silverback male. In large groups there may be more than one silverback. These include younger, non-dominant males, who may eventually move off and live solitary lives. A male may kidnap a female gorilla from another group and begin a new troop.
Males exhibit aggressive behaviour by vocalising. The silverback stands on his hind legs and throws leaves and twigs into the air. He then beats his chest with his hands and runs back and forth tearing up the vegetation. The finale is beating the ground with the palms of his hands. This intimidating behaviour is used to threaten outsiders and often gives the impression that the gorilla is fiercer than he actually is.
- There are three gorilla subspecies: the Mountain Gorilla, the Eastern Lowland Gorilla and the Western Lowland Gorilla. All are found in the Western part of Africa
- When excited and pleased, gorillas giggle in almost the same way that humans do
- Young gorillas are very playful, tickling and chasing each other. At the Zoo they play with special ‘gorilla proof’ toys
- Baby gorillas are quite similar to human babies and have the same needs, such as physical touching, security and lots of opportunities to play
- When gorillas are upset or threatened they show it by cough