What Kind of Work Goes into Maintaining Gorilla Pens?

One of the most majestic zoo attraction are the gorillas. These are magnificent animals, which, sadly, are hunted in their natural habitat. Even though governments try to protect these beasts, poachers are still able to shoot them down and kill them.

In zoos, their protection is better assured compared to the wild. However, like other zoo animals, there is a need to keep them in their natural habitat, or a reasonable facsimile. Gorilla pens are well thought out environments that try to mimic the gorilla’s natural home. There are no two gorilla pens that are alike. Each of these pens are a product of the design consideration unique to the zoo. As each zoo has an individual look, so too does the enclosures for the various animals. For each of the animals in a zoo, the maintenance required for each cage or pen is also different from other animals.

For gorilla pens, there are several things to consider. Is this a pen, with a moat and high walls? Or is this a sort of viewable cage with a thick glass separating the gorilla from the crowd? Either way, the zoo would have specific protocols in cleaning, and keeping the pen safe.

Among other things, a lot of the tools and equipment used have to be power tools of one kind or another. These include water jet cleaners, high powered vacuums, as well regular tools like the best battery powered screwdriver. It cannot be underlined enough that these tools have to be good quality, and that the maintenance has to be done thoroughly and quickly. The need for power tools is essential. There are things inside a gorilla pen that need to be tied down or screwed securely. This requires a good quality screwdriver to quickly unscrew and screw back an item.

Zoo maintenance is not a trivial task. The crew has to know their jobs, as they cannot go back and give it another run. They have a regular schedule and they have to keep it. Once they are through, they have to return the animal to the pen in a safe manner.

Also read: Why Harambe the Gorilla Wouldn’t Have Hurt a Child

What are the Natural Sleeping Habits of Gorillas?


Africa is the home of the largest primate in the world – the gorilla, which is classified into two groups. The lowland gorillas habituate the dense and flat forests of western and central Africa while the mountain gorillas are found in the mountainous parts of central Africa. While they are quite similar, there are some differences as well. Lowland gorillas have soft, short hair and the mountain gorillas have longer hair. The mountain gorillas stand 4 to 6 feet tall and weigh from 135 to 220 kg (300 to 485 lbs). The lowland gorillas are of the same height but are lighter. Their weight ranges between 68 to 181 kg or 150-400 lbs.


The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Angola and Equatorial Guinea are the areas where lowland gorillas live. You can find mountain gorillas in the dense mountains of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda. According to the National Geographic, a group of gorillas may claim a territory of about 41 square kilometres or 16 square miles.


Generally, gorillas are herbivores and usually feast on tree pulp, tree bark, roots, fruits and shoots of vegetation. They are also known to eat insects and small animals. They can consume about 15 kg or 40 lbs of vegetation every single day. The diet of lowland gorillas consists largely of fruits, leaves, stems, seeds and partly by caterpillars and termites. Mountain gorillas on the other hand love stems, shoots and leaves, fruits, flowers and roots. They also eat grubs, ants and snails in small amounts.


Gorillas are not solitary animals and are found in groups, called bands or troops. A band could have about 50 members, although there are instances when a group can only have two. A dominant male, often called a silverback, is the leader of a group.

Like humans, a day in the life of a group of gorillas is broken down into different activities. Feeding time is during morning and evening. Midday is spent grooming each other, playing or napping. They sleep in the evening.

Sleeping Habits

Again, just like humans, gorillas prepare their beds in the evening. Before you start imagining that gorilla beds are close to what you see in advertisements for latex mattress brands, their beds are called nests. Gorillas build their nests on trees, which younger gorillas prefer. The older members of the troops often find spots on the ground.

It might look random, but gorillas choose where they will build their nest for the night. They consider security, that is why most younger gorillas sleep in nests they build on trees. They also consider the amount of vegetation around them, especially for those who are sleeping on the ground.

Gorillas are also very peculiar and particular, since they build a new nest each night, even if the previous ones they used are just a few feet away. Only infant gorillas are exempt from building their own nest, as they bed down with their mothers.

Gorillas start to build the nest before the evening sets in, because they prefer to be in their nests approximately about one hour after dark. Sometimes, they also prepare simpler nests for their midday nap.

The method in which gorillas build their nests is quite fascinating. After locating a good spot on the ground where there’s a nice clump of vegetation, they will pull the branches of nearby plants and bushes into the centre. They interlace the branches to create several layers, in effect, creating a nice, thick cushion or mattress. The interlacing of branches and leaves is also an effective method to anchor them. They bend or break other branches to form the rim of their nest. Other branches are pulled together to form a makeshift roof.

Nests built on trees must be strong enough to support the gorilla’s weight. The gorilla usually finds a fork in the branches to ensure that it will be a sturdy anchor. The primate will then pull down smaller branches toward the centre, following an interlacing pattern to secure the broken or bent branches, with the leaves providing a soft, warm and thick mattress. A roof of clumped branches is usually constructed as well.

Nest building is not unique to gorillas. Their cousins, the chimpanzees, also build nests. But still, the nest-building dynamics is fascinating to watch, if you’re lucky.

Also see: How Climate Change Affects Gorilla Population?

How Strong are Gorillas Compared to Humans

how-strong-are-gorillas-compared-to-humansChimpanzees are smaller than gorillas and they are noted for their strength. This suggests that gorillas are stronger than chimpanzees and humans as well. Although not officially confirmed, it’s been said that a gorilla is 20 times stronger than 20 human beings. That is a lot of brute strength that not even hours of pumping your muscles on the best workout bench daily can give you.

No available study

Scientifically speaking, there is no available research on how strong a gorilla can be compared to human beings. There are people who say that a male silverback is about 10 times stronger than a an adult human. Others say that it is stronger by about 27 times. There is no conclusive proof however. Still there are videos showing the massive strength of the world’s largest primate. They have been filmed uprooting banana plants that a human being will not be able to do. There are also videos showing an adult female gorilla building a nest by breaking full grown bamboo stems with just one hand.

Using a chimpanzee as basis

There has been studies done in the past to identify the strength of chimpanzees, pound for pound. An experiment was done in 1924 at the Bronx Zoo by John Bauman, a biologist. The pulling strength of a male chimp was studied versus a man of the same weight – 165 pounds. A pulling machine called a dynamometer was used. The man pulled at over 150 lbs, reaching a maximum of 200 lbs after two tries. The chimp on the other hand was able to pull 847 pounds, or about 5x more than the adult male of the same weight.

The chimp was not trained to do it and in actual fact, the dynamometer was placed behind his bars at the zoo. Further studies showed that it was not the maximum pulling strength of the chimpanzee. In the same experiment, a female chimp was able to pull 1,260 pounds with one arm. It would seem that chimps raised in the wild can be stronger than the two chimps that were born and raised in captivity.

Just like their cousins

Gorillas, just like their cousins, the chimps and orangutans, are trained to brachiate (swing from one hold to another). This action allowed them to move swiftly from tree branch to tree branch quickly. Although they can walk and run, they brachiate more especially when they have to escape and hide.

Based on studies in the past that were conducted on chimps and orangutans, it is safe to say that gorillas are also stronger than humans. They fight for supremacy to be the leader of a troop. Considering their weight, they can easily swing from branch to branch. They are able to climb and jump in the air. You have to consider their height as well, which range from 4 feet to 6 feet or 1.2 metres to 1.8 metres.

Gorillas do have massive strength, particularly in their upper bodies. They can do so much damage if they are angry. However, even in the wild, gorillas are very gentle, thus their incredible strength is not displayed that much.

Facts On Gorillas

CdyDZFZWEAA-ZfoAbout five million years ago, the African apes like the gorillas, bonobos and chimpanzees diverged from a common ancestor, and they all belong to family Hominidae. They walk on all fours, which is called quadrupedalism. They carry their head and torso’s weight with the help of their knuckles. There are two species of gorilla. They are the Western gorilla and Eastern gorilla. Western has two subspecies called Western Lowland and Crosses River Gorilla whereas the Eastern gorilla has the subspecies of eastern lowland and the mountain gorilla.

It has been proved that gorillas portray individual personalities. They are also found to be capable of expressing emotions like grief. The gorillas live in sociable groups which are often led by male gorilla called silver back. This name is because the male is old and has silver hairs on its back. The group has females and infants. When other male gorillas grow up, they move away from their group to form a new group or join other groups. Different groups are found to live and co-exist in the same area peacefully.

Social bonds are reinforced by a group by social grooming. They groom each other by combing them using their teeth and fingers. They are mostly herbivores, and their diets comprise mainly of leaves, stems, fruits, shoots and sometimes include caterpillars, snails, grubs, ants, and termites.

The females start reproducing at around ten years of age and reproduce every 3-4 years. When a female is in estrus cycle, she can be conceived only for 3 days in a month. They also have gestation period like that of humans, which extends up to 9 months. The young gorillas weigh around 4 pounds, and the growth rate is twice as fast as human offspring. They all nest in the ground and have the ability to our simple tools like stones and sticks. They are usually quiet animals but use various noises to communicate whenever necessary.

Mountain Gorilla- Gorilla Beringei Beringei

gorilla-featuredThe mountain gorilla is a huge ape that inhabits the volcanic slopes of Africa. They have very few predators, and yet they have been listed as endangered species. This is mainly because of the human activities such as wars, poaching, habitat destruction, etc.

At present, this endangered species of mountain gorilla’s habitat is constrained within the boundaries of national parks of Africa. One is the scenic Bwindi National Park situated in Uganda, and the other is distributed among the three national parks in the region of Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Mountain gorillas are shy, but they are extremely strong. When they feel threatened, they turn ferocious and attack the intruder. The group leader will protect the group by charging at the threat, and the mother will protect the young ones even by fighting in the face of death.

The life span of the mountain gorillas is 30 years, and the group is led by an alpha male, which is often the oldest male in the group. The troops also have females, infants, and younger males. The alpha silverback also maintains order and has control over the activities of the group. They also schedule the resting time, travel and feeding trips. This species is listed as critically endangered by IUCN’s Red List. Poaching and wars are seen as the main reason for their endangered status.