Natural Predators

It is easy to guess that gorillas do not have natural predators when you see the size and power of a male gorilla. Its physical characteristics and its social structure help them to prevent being a prey of other animals, but this does not mean that they are riskless.

Potential predators.

The Congo Basin is a region full of life, where several animal and plant species inhabit. The other places where gorillas dwell, like mountain and swamp forests, are not far behind regarding biodiversity. Gorillas share their habitat with animals such as the African forest buffalo (Syncerus caffer nanus), African gray parrots (Psittacus erithacus), African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis), Giant Forest Hog (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni) and leopards (Panthera pardus).

Leopards have the ability to kill an adult gorilla.

Leopards are big and smart felines that feed on meat from multiple animals.

In their habitat, they can find unsuspecting gorillas susceptible to becoming their food. Leopards are the only animals in their range that have the ability to kill an adult gorilla. It is not an easy task, since the largest primates in the world are unyielding and organized, therefore, at the first sign of threat they emit alarm calls to warn the group. The main advantage of felines is their ability to climb trees quickly and efficiently, which are the places where these primates build their nests.

Enemies of gorillas.

Main natural predator of gorillas.

Leopards rarely prey on adult male gorillas, but they do it specifically of western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). Usually, they avoid “silverback” leaders that are stronger and focus on young individuals or offspring. Since gorillas live in tropical climates, their remains quickly disappear, consumed by scavengers and insects. On one occasion, the remains of a western lowland gorilla killed by a leopard in Gabon were entirely devoured after 3 or 4 days.
Other potential predators are crocodiles, although incidents with these reptiles are unlikely.

Other possible predators are crocodiles lurking motionless in the water, and can attack them when they come to drink or when they walk in the middle of swamp forests. However, incidents with these reptiles are unlikely, since Gorillas rarely drink water directly from rivers or swamps. Sometimes, gorillas do not die during the attack, but soon after because of the wounds that become infected and they cannot recover.

However, there is no bigger danger for gorillas than humans. Not even the attacks of leopards have such adverse effects on gorilla populations as human activities. The reasons why people hunt gorillas are diverse, but usually with the intention to trade them. Humans capture gorillas alive to sell them or kill them to sell the meat or parts; this is additional to the damage caused to entire populations by destroying or degrading the habitat in which they live.

Defense strategies.

When a gorilla detects a predator nearby, he emits alarm calls (vocalizations) that warn his family about the approaching danger so they can gather, preferably close to the “silverback” leader. He has the responsibility of defending his troop from any predator, including humans.

Females tend to build strong ties with males, so they protect them.

If the intruder does not go, the silverback confronts him and make a menacing display that usually involve, stand on his two legs and beat his chest with both hands and utter loud screams and roars with the intention to look larger and stronger. Young males can lead others away from the predator or attack him all at once. Most of the times, predators prefer not confronting a powerful gorilla that can seriously injure them with their canine teeth, and prefer to walk away.

Females tend to build strong ties with males so that these protect them. Also, this reduces the chances that they kill their offspring.



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