Western Lowland Gorilla

Western Lowland Gorilla

[ Gorilla gorilla gorilla ]

Quick Facts

HEIGHT: 5 to 5.75 feet

males: 350 - 425 pounds; females: 180 - 200 pounds 

WILD DIET: fruit, leaves, stems, vines, and shoots
ZOO DIET: monkey chow, apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, green beans, spinach, lettuce, kale, escarole, romaine, and parsley
DISTRIBUTION: a small area of West Africa, including Cameroon, Gabon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Congo, and Nigeria; the range of the western lowland gorilla is shrinking, due mainly to reduced habitats caused by timber companies moving into the region, Ebola hemorrhagic fever and the bushmeat trade
HABITAT: lowland tropical rain forests


Welcome JoJo
He’s large and in charge and now he’s here. JoJo, a silverback gorilla, age 32, arrived from Lincoln Park Zoo in 2012, where he was born in 1980. During his lifetime, he has also been at other zoos. His popularity is due to his genetic history. Both of his parents, Freddy and Lenore, are wild-born, which makes JoJo a genetically valuable silverback to the gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP).
Before making his appearance here in Tropic World: Africa, his keepers at Lincoln Park Zoo worked with him as he mastered leg lifts, sitting and standing exercises, and taking walks to build his stamina. The keepers here at Brookfield Zoo continue to monitor his activity as he becomes acclimated to his new home and family. So far, he seems to be adapting well, and allowing keepers to approach him for wellness check-ups. As part of his reinforcement training he has learned to present different parts of his body for his trainers to inspect, to hold still to have his nails filed, and to climb onto the scale when asked.
The Troop
Our older silverback gorilla, Ramar, is 44 years old and has been here at the zoo since 1998. He has been the main man of the troop, which includes females, Binti Jua, Koola, and Kamba, and a baby born in 2013. In the wild, gorillas usually live to be about 35 years old. In zoos, they can reach up to 50 years of age. Ramar will now step back (and will reside in his own area) to let JoJo take over his role as leader. Ramar is 2 years older than the oldest known adult male gorilla to reproduce. The gorilla SSP took this information into account when Ramar retired from breeding at Brookfield Zoo.
Usually, gorillas are quiet and shy, but protective of their family. This is JoJo’s new job here at Tropic World: Africa, along with breeding with one (or all) of the lovely ladies in waiting. You may sometimes see him pounding his chest and vocalizing loudly. Usually, this is the extent of a gorilla’s display of leadership and method of resolving conflict with other gorillas.
The Gorilla Pad
Although there are 2 species of gorilla, each with 2 subspecies, our resident gorillas are all western lowland gorillas. Their natural habitats are the tropical rainforests of West and Central Africa, the Congo, and Nigeria. When you visit them here in Tropic World: Africa, you will notice a pleasantly warm and humid environment. Our exhibit is constructed to closely replicate the natural environment of gorillas, including the temperature and topography.
Visiting the gorilla exhibit here at the zoo is an experience for your senses! You may see them foraging for food in a tree stump or climbing up high to reach fruit on a tree. You will hear various grunts or barks as they communicate with each other, warning of danger, or reassuring each other. Even a grimace is a way of communicating. See how many facial expressions you can observe on your next visit. Male gorillas emit a pungent scent from the sweat glands in their armpits when they are excited. They are also able to smell when another gorilla or a human is near.

All in the Family
A family that grooms together stays together. You may often see this favorite pastime in the gorilla exhibit here at the zoo. Aside from providing a hygienic function, it also establishes strong social bonds between the members of the troop. With this act, the members of the troop acknowledge each other's roles. Generally females are not related, so an intereaction like grooming helps to build a strong bond between troop members.
Plight in the Wild
Aside from the usual predators such as leopards and crocodiles, gorillas are also negatively affected by human activities. Currently, their natural habitat suffers fragmentation. Habitat loss in the Democratic Republic of Congo is attributed to the mining of coltan, a metallic ore, which, when refined, is used to make components for electronic devices such as cell phones and computers. Timber companies moving into the area and clear cutting forests to make roads adds to more fragmentation which is further compounded when large areas of trees are taken down. Other impacts by humans such as illegal poaching for the bushmeat trade, transmitted human disease, including Ebola hemorrhagic fever, and political unrest, are all contributing factors to the population decline of western lowland gorillas.
Our Contribution
Brookfield Zoo participates in the SSP for western lowland gorillas as they are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). Through inter-zoo breeding, education, and conservation programs, genetically healthy populations are being bred in hopes of saving this endangered primate.

What Can You Do to Help?

Recycle your electronics at Brookfield Zoo's North and South gates. Components from these devices can be used to make new ones, which lessens the demand for coltan.
*A silverback is an adult male gorilla distinguished by a silver patch on his back and usually has strong leadership qualities.

Get Involved

Conservation Fund of the Chicago Zoological Society