Gorillas are the largest living primates on earth and their natural habitats are the rainforests of West and East Africa. Their locations on opposite sides of the African continent have given rise to two distinct species, the Western Gorilla and the Eastern Gorilla. The Western Gorillas are divided into two sub-species, the Western Lowland and River Cross Gorilla and their East African cousins are also sub-divided into the Eastern Lowland and Mountain Gorilla.
Distinctly lighter in colour than their eastern relatives, Western Gorillas are widely distributed throughout the lowland tropical forests western equatorial Africa. It is estimated that their population numbers around 100,000 although this figure may well be less than half as a result of de-forestation, poaching and disease.The appearance of a Western Gorilla is typically brown or grey with a clearly defined over-hanging tip on the nose – something which is not found on the Eastern Gorilla. Adult males weigh between 130 to 180kg and stand at around 170 to 190cm. Females are smaller, weighing 60 to 120kg and measuring 140 to 160cm. With a leaner build than the Eastern Gorilla each of the two sub-species have their own individual anatomy, particularly noticeable in their teeth and skull proportions. Additionally, the Cross River Gorilla is slightly larger than the Western Lowland Gorilla.
Mountain Gorillas are only found in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda, Uganda and Congo with a small population buried deep in Uganda’s aptly named Impenetrable Forest. Their vertigo suffering lowland brothers are dispersed between Uganda and eastern Congo. The combined population of Eastern Gorillas is thought to be around 16,000 but the highly endangered Mountain Gorilla.
Eastern Gorillas are very dark with thick black fur, large heads and broad chests. Eastern Lowland Gorillas have slightly shorter fur and are somewhat smaller than the Mountain Gorilla. As the males mature and reach adulthood they develop a silver coloured saddle across their backs which is why they are referred to as Silverbacks. Fully grown males weigh in up to 220kg and stand around 180 to 190cm with females weighing between 80 to 110kg and standing up to 150cm.