Gorilla: misunderstood creature

By Anis Shakur
Friday – July 24, 2020
NEW YORK (United States): According to biologists, ‘gorilla’ is our nearest alike in the animal kingdom, man and gorilla, as per scientific assumption, 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 it 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 than the lurid legends themselves.

Gorillas are the happy go lucky denizens of the rain forests of equatorial Africa, which used to be a stupendous wilderness of palm, bamboo trees and thick sprouting growth. The trees thrust upward majestically to considerable heights spreading a canopy overhead.

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 demeanour, 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 its mate, let alone the King Kong passes at human females.

However, if irritated beyond endurance, then it 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 levelled 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 its 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. In the 1970s, nearly 332 gorillas flourished in 101 zoos the world over.

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.

Next in TDR’s Wildlife, “Chameleon”

Info: Prominent writer, Anis Shakur, is an essential employee in the division of animal resources, SUNY Downstate, and the animal research, VA Brooklyn.