Gorilla: 'Gentleman' of the forest
By Anis Shakur
According to biologists gorilla is our nearest relative in the animal kingdom. In fact, man and gorilla had initially
branched away from common ancestors some twenty-six million years ago.
Gorilla is the animal world's gentlest, very peaceable, tender, shy and one of the most tolerant 'citizens.' But he has
been highly misunderstood heretofore-primarily due to its ferocious and dreaded appearance and a gigantic build-up.
However, facts are quite the reverse. Also, the stark realities are even more enthralling then the lurid legends themselves.
Gorillas are the happy go lucky denizens of the rain forests of equatorial Africa, which is a stupendous wilderness of
palm, bamboo trees and thick sprouting growth. The trees thrust upward majestically to considerable heights spreading a canopy
Under such an environment, gorillas saunter, living a carefree life with a sense of gusto. Usually they live in large
groups, sometimes as many as thirty, searching for mostly plants and roots, which they gorge happily.
The note-worthy patience exhibited by them becomes all the more apparent by the fact that even when their well-established
domain is usurped, they incessantly remain adhered to the adage 'live and let live.'
In central Africa, during two thousand hours of close observation of gorilla's demeanor, they were found to be extremely
peaceful, placid and content, except only for three or four minutes of aggressive conduct.
A mature male gorilla can attain a maximum height of six feet and weighs between 400 to 500 lbs. It is ten to fourteen
times as heftier as the mightiest man
Further, a gorilla is utterly averse to making advances even towards his mate, let alone the King Kong passes at human
However, if irritated beyond endurance, then he will not hesitate to give a deserving lesson to a man or even a potent
leopard with a single squeeze.
Contrary to the unfounded allegations leveled against them, they do not avail the power and perilous display to invite
tribulations but only to get rid of it.
Likewise, the occasional chest thrashing, slapping, throwing things around, exhibiting teeth and producing horrific roars
are only to evade the tension and to scare away the adversary.
Squabbles are unknown to gorillas; they live with their kith and kin, frequently various groups may share the same territory
and even interchange members.
However, the leader amongst them taking undue advantage of his supremacy, claims the selected food, the most receptive
'lady' and the driest, snug shelter, if it rains.
The affectionate adult males-fathers and uncles mostly spoil the youngsters by dispensing too much liberty. In turn their
toddlers learn to frolic with them, at times even with the leader, pulling his hair and tweaking the nose!
The mother gorilla yields a new offspring not before three or four years. Their family planning is laudable! Nature has
provided the gorilla with dense hair over its body, so as to bear the vagaries of the weather.
And where do they sleep? Well, they collect mass of foliage and tuck it under and around them. The bed thus prepared,
they go into a long nap.
Messages are sent through voice signals; like low grumbles, grunts, when they feel complacent, sharp grunts and barks,
if scattered in thick vegetation, screech, roars when infuriated or to warn the tribe that everything is not quite well.
Essentially, there are twenty audible signals.
While differentiating gorillas with chimpanzees in the realm of intelligence, one leading expert candidly affirmed: "it
is not that gorillas can't do the things that chimps do but just they are smart enough to do only what they want to do."
The average life span of gorillas is twenty years in the wild. Today nearly 332 gorillas flourish in 101 zoos the world
Eminent among them was Philadelphia zoo's gorilla, 'Massa', who reached the ripe age of thirty-nine years to become the
oldest captive gorilla.
Indeed, the most flawless way to keep them alive and cheerful is to behave with them
like people, provide them all the warmth and love, which is reckoned to be the prerogative of human beings alone.