Things are kicking off down in the gorilla enclosure at Philadelphia Zoo – or are they? What looks like a full-on gorilla fight turns out to be more of a social interaction and bonding exercise between two gorillas. Even so, it looks pretty intense at times and we get a great view of gorilla canines, which look disturbingly like fangs from close up!
Gorilla Social Time
As we watch the gorillas interact outside and then inside, we are also able to overhear an explanation of what is going on by one of the guides. He explains that this is an interaction between bachelor male gorillas and it is described as “play behavior.” This interaction is allowed a couple of times a week at this zoo and is described as “perfectly normal.”
One of the gorillas is described as being significantly bigger than the other but they are both adolescents and are trying to work through some of their angst. The guide also explains that once a male gorilla reaches sexual maturity, he has to leave his social group so that he does not threaten the authority of the dominant male. They hang out alone as bachelors for a while or spend some time with other young males before they form a group with their own females.
Gorilla Behavior and Diet
We share 98 percent of our DNA with gorillas and anyone who has ever watched teen boys brawling will not be surprised by what we see in this video. Gorillas are also intelligent – they have been known to learn sign language and use tools.
In the wild, gorillas are critically endangered as their habitats come under threat by human activities. They are very strong and powerful creatures with broad shoulders and thick chests. We also get a glimpse of their sharp teeth in this footage which may make you think that gorillas are carnivores. They are actually mostly vegetarian but the western lowland gorilla does eat insects – mainly ants and termites.
These powerful animals will eat most parts of a plant (they love bamboo) and that includes leaves, shoots, stems, bark, flowers, and fruit. They use their senses to forage for food and their sight and smell are most useful. Because they can see in color, they can tell when a fruit is ripe. They also have binocular vision so they can gauge distances. Then, using their dexterous skills, they pluck fruit and stems and tear apart branches.
In the wild, gorillas have a lifespan of between 20 and 40 years but many live longer in captivity. We hope that this pair of young males have a long and happy life!
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