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Western lowland gorilla

Gorilla gorilla gorilla

Western lowland gorillas are a highly endangered great ape species found in the rainforests of West Africa. They are quiet, peaceful and non-aggressive compared to their chimpanzee cousins.

They are most active in the morning and spend most of their days eating and sleeping. Western lowland gorillas can be up to 1.8 metres tall and can weigh up to 275 kilograms.

They never attack unless they are provoked. However, to protect their groups, adult males will attempt to scare off intruders by standing upright, slapping their chests and roaring and screaming. Groups consist of a dominant male called a ‘silverback’ (distinguished by his larger size and grey back), several breeding females and their young. Young males are called ‘blackbacks’ and stay in the group until they reach adolescence. They will often leave and form bachelor groups or try to start their own group.

Our gorilla troop is led by our silverback, ‘Gugas’. He had quite a tragic start in life. He was found abandoned at the gates of Lisbon Zoo, in Portugal. It is thought he had been illegally smuggled into the country by a circus, which means that his whole family most likely would have been killed in the wild for bush meat. Luckily he was sent to a specialised gorilla nursery in Stuttgart Zoo, in Germany, where he was socialised with other gorillas before arriving here at Belfast to join our group. Gugas has flourished into a very impressive male and has successfully produced four infants at Belfast Zoo. His most recent infant was born in October 2021 to mother Kamili. 

IUCN red list status

The IUCN status of the western lowland gorilla is critically endangered.

The IUCN status of the western lowland gorilla is critically endangered.

For more information on classifications visit

Animal class


Conservation status

The IUCN states that western lowland gorillas are facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. They are listed under Appendix I of CITES.




Figures are not definite but it is estimated that there are 10,000, maybe even less, western lowland gorillas left in the wild.


Herbivore. Gorillas eat fruit, shoots, bulbs, tree bark and leaves.