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A silverback gorilla is a mature male mountain gorilla with silver saddles across his back and hips. The silverback is responsible for protecting and leading a troop of five to thirty mountain gorillas on where to migrate, forage for food and even rest.
See the fact file below for more information on the silverback gorilla or alternatively, you can download our 24-page Silverback Gorilla worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
Habitat and Anatomy
- Common Name: Silverback Gorilla
- Scientific Name: Gorilla beringei beringei
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Primates
- Family: Hominidae
- Group Name: Troop
- Natural Habitat: Tropical rainforest of East and Central Africa
- Average Height: 6 feet
- Diet: Herbivores
- Average Lifespan in the Wild: 40 to 50 years
- Mountain gorillas are one of the two subspecies of the Eastern gorilla found in the mountainous forest of East and Central Africa. Along with chimpanzees, orangutans and bonobos, gorillas are considered one of the great apes.
- Compared to other species of gorilla, mountain gorillas have thicker and longer fur. Like other great apes, they have longer arms than legs. They are terrestrial and quadrupedal primates, which means they spend more time on the ground than in trees and walk on four limbs. Despite their huge size, mountain gorillas can climb fruiting trees.
- With their thicker fur, they can live at high altitude and in colder climates. They inhabit the Albertine Rift cloud forest and the Virunga Volcanoes in Central Africa.
- They wander in home ranges of 10 to 15 square miles.
- Adult male mountain gorillas are called silverbacks because of the silver saddle running across their back and hips.
- An average silverback height is up to 6 feet tall while female mountain gorillas average up to 5 feet tall. They can weigh up to 350 pounds with a stocky build, muscular arms and broad chest making them the largest among the primates.
- Since they are herbivores, silverbacks eat a variety of roots, fruit, herbs, bark, bamboo and sometimes insects. In order to sustain their body, they eat up to 66 pounds of food per day.
- Aside from their silverbacks, male mountain gorillas are distinguished by their pronounced bony crest on the top of their skulls, which gives their head a conical shape.
- In addition, they have relatively small ears for the size of their heads.
- Younger male mountain gorillas are called “blackbacks” because the silver saddle will only occur at the age of 12.
Behavioral Traits and Characteristics
- Despite their body strength, silverback gorillas are shy and gentle. They normally live in troops composed of 5 to 30 individuals. An adult silverback serves as the alpha and leader of the group. Aside from protecting the troop, the alpha silverback decides where to travel, forage for food and sleep. In order to scare away other animals, silverbacks stand erect on their hind legs, tear and throw plants, stomp their feet, strike the ground with their palms and drum their chests with their hands.
- Since they are nomadic, they build new nests each day. A troop may be composed of several younger males, adult and juvenile females and infants.
- In terms of mating, the silverback is the only male allowed to mate with all of the females in a troop. Because of his size and strength, females choose to mate with him rather than other males in the group.
- When males reach sexual maturity, they tend to leave the troop and travel alone until they can form their own troop to lead.
- Unlike orangutans, silverbacks father the majority of the young in the troop.
- Like other great apes, silverbacks are intelligent primates. They use a variety of vocalizations, gestures, facial expressions and body language to communicate with others.
- Where a mother dies or leaves the troop, the silverback looks after the young ones and allows them to sleep in his nest.
- They are typically quiet and shy unless an intruder confronts a silverback to take over the group.
- Most of the time conflicts are resolved through display and not actual fighting. To bond with his group, a silverback rests at midday and spends almost 13 hours sleeping. During this time they forage, groom and play with members of the troop.
- According to IUCN’s Red List, mountain gorillas are considered critically endangered because of the following causes:
- Loss of habitat due to human encroachment
- Subject to human violence
- Poaching wherein body parts are sold for traditional medicine and magic, and babies taken for the illegal pet trade.
- In 1991, the International Gorilla Conservation Programme was formed to conserve critically endangered mountain gorillas through partnering with stakeholders able to help preserve their habitat.
- Today, there are a number of protected national parks in Central Africa, which serve as the habitat of mountain gorillas.
Additional Mountain Gorilla Facts
- At the age of ten, female mountain gorillas are considered sexually mature and able to bear offspring. After 8 ½ months of gestation, they normally give birth to a single baby. In general, they can give birth from two to six babies in their lifetime. They have an interbirth period of 4 to 5 years before giving birth to another baby.
- Newborn gorillas are weak like human babies. They are weaned at 3 ½ years and stay close to their mothers until the age of 4. During this time, they start to eat the same diet including plants, fruit and shoots.
- They rarely drink water but usually hydrate themselves by eating moist plants and fruit.
- Gorillas can identify their family members through their nose prints.
- Like humans, they have 32 teeth but with very sharp canines.
- When stressed or excited, silverbacks have large apocrine glands in their armpits responsible for secreting a pungent odor. All gorillas have apocrine and eccrine glands lubricating both their palms and feet.
Silverback Gorilla Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about silverback gorilla across 24 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Silverback Gorilla worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about a silverback gorilla which is a mature male mountain gorilla with silver saddles across his back and hips. The silverback is responsible for protecting and leading a troop of five to thirty mountain gorillas on where to migrate, forage for food and even rest.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Silverback Gorilla Facts
- Silverback Profile
- The Gentle Giant
- That’s Me!
- R&R: Rules and Roles
- Call Them Apes
- Silverback Hunt
- Building Words
- To Serve and Protect
- Silverback World
- Shattered Kingdom
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Link will appear as Silverback Gorilla Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, July 30, 2018
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.