Gorilla

A comparison with humans and a critique of methods of study.
For
thousands of years, men and women have strived to explain the why of their
existence. To discover the reasons for how we act the way we do and what this
knowledge can do to impact the way we live our lives in this complex society
that we have created. One of the ways that science has begun to shed light on
the inner workings of the human condition is through Primatology. Built from the
words Primate which refers to a group of animals closely related to humans and
logos which is a Greek word meaning ‘the study of’ Primatology’s goals
include more than simply to amass data on the primate species. Rather a

Primatologist observes data about primates in an effort to understand the
primate species under their study and to relate that data back to the human
condition so that we can learn more about ourselves through our evolutionary
cousins. In recent years, Primatologists have done much research on all aspects
of the life of the western lowland Gorilla, known scientifically as: gorilla
gorilla gorilla (Fay, 1989). In this paper I will compare these primates, more
precisely classified as great apes, to humans in an attempt to illuminate both
differences and similarities between the two species. More specifically, I will
focus on the social structure of the western lowland Gorilla, describing how
these predominantly gentle creatures live in a society similar to that of humans
in many ways. Finally, in my conclusion I will explore the methods that

Primatologists use to study primates such as the western lowland Gorilla and
whether those methods are biased towards or against the Gorillas. However, I
cannot draw indelible conclusions about these subjects as I have had no time
studying these animals in the field and have only the observations and writings
of others from which to draw my data and form opinions. The most common of the

Gorilla species, there are approximately ten thousand to thirty five thousand
western lowland Gorillas in the wild and five hundred and fifty individuals in
captivity worldwide. They are found in Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Congo, Central

African Republic and Zaire in increasingly shrinking habitats due to the
incessant encroachment of human populations. Western lowland gorillas are
covered with black or brown-gray fur with black skin on chests, palms, and
faces. Red heads are common in Camaroon gorillas especially. Males develop a
silver back as they mature this is not unlike the tendency for many human males
to develop gray hair as they mature as well. The main difference being that only

Gorilla males develop silver backs whereas in humans both males and females
alike tend to lose their hair coloring with age. Unlike humans, which are
bipedal, walking on two legs, Gorillas are quadrupedal, they walk on all fours
with the soles of their feet flat on the ground with the knuckles of the hands
curled and planted on the ground (Schaller, 1963). Although they are mainly
quadrupedal, gorillas can travel bipedally but generally no farther than
approximately six meters (Schaller, 1963). This upright stance is used most
often used for chest beating, to observe something of interest, or to reach an
object (Schaller, 1963). Gorillas recognize each other by their faces and body
shapes. Each gorilla has a unique nose print which researchers can use to
identify animals in the field (Schaller, 1963). This is very much like humans
who recognize each other almost exclusively by visual identification of the
facial features. Gorillas sleep about 13 hours each night and rest for several
hours at midday. They build new sleeping nests every night by bending nearby
plants into a springy platform, usually on the ground or in low trees. When not
resting, they spend most of their time looking for food and eating it. Despite
their fearsome size (three hundred to five hundred pounds for males and one
hundred fifty to two hundred fifty pounds for females) and large canine teeth
the western lowland gorilla is an herbivore. They consume over two hundred types
of leaves, tubers, flowers, and fruit, supplemented with fungus and some types
of insects. Gorillas do not drink water. They obtain all the moisture they need
from the vast amounts of foliage they consume. Males consume approximately fifty
pounds of vegetation a day (Elizabeth, 1990). This is very different from the
omnivorous diet of the human species, which has often been observed stalking and
killing a Big Mac. All joking aside though, a human’s daily diet contains
considerably more protein than a Gorilla might consume in a week or