How Do Gorillas Mate, Courtship And Reproductive In Bwindi Impenetrable National Park : The largest living ape in the world now is the Gorilla. Gorillas live within the forests and national parks that are verdant in central Africa and east Africa such Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park among others.
The gorilla giants share 98% of the DNA with humans which makes them the closest relatives to humans. The main species of gorillas is the Eastern gorillas and the Western gorillas.
The Eastern gorillas have two subspecies which is the mountain gorillas and the eastern lowland gorillas then the Western gorillas has both Cross river gorillas and western lowland gorillas for more information about gorillas, you can check out our article on Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Gorilla Groups and Family Hierarchy
A gorilla group comprises of different family gorilla members such as infants, the juveniles, the adults and females as well but most importantly, the dominant Silverback male gorilla who leads and guides the family group on things to do and where to go.
These gorillas normally live in groups of 30 individuals, gorillas are generally peaceful with just a few internal conflicts. Interactions amongst different gorilla groups is rare and this explains why you can’t see all the gorillas in one part of the Bwindi impenetrable national park during gorilla trekking which means visitors can visit one gorilla
family at a time.
Breeding in Gorillas in Bwindi impenetrable national park
During the breeding in gorillas, the female gorillas are all breaded by the dominant male gorilla known as the silverback gorilla. Thus mating can happen all year round. It is normally initiated by the females whether when they in oestrus or not.
Both the western gorillas and eastern gorillas are known for mating while facing the same side. However, some have been observed mating while facing each other especially mountain gorillas.
When Do Gorillas Become Sexually Mature/ Reproduce
The best way to determine the gorilla’s mating habits in the Bwindi impenetrable National park is by understanding their reproductive cycle. The female gorillas attain sexual maturity between 10- 12 years. Their ovulation cycle begins earlier at about 6 years and when they become mature.
A number of females leave their father’s gorilla group to prevent inbreeding with their fathers and other who
don’t leave try as much as possible to avoid mating with the fathers. Since it is the silverback that mates all the females.
Once males attain maturity, they leave the group to go become loners or better they join the other bachelor gorillas and other begin to steal females from other groups.
The dominant silverbacks creates a strong bong with all the female in the group however when he starts to grow old, some females in the group begin to leave him and those that stay when he dies, they join other groups with much younger and stronger silverbacks.
How Do Gorillas Mate?
As explained earlier that mating is done all year round with a dominant silverback male who mates with all the females while in their ovulation. The mating process is initiated by the females when is sexually active. However, there are instances when dominant silverback initiates the process.
He does this by touching her, making a display with a sound, if the female does not respond positively
and rejects him, he might instead slap the female as he forces her to accept.
Mating is done when both gorillas are on the ground and normally the female gorilla is smaller than the dominant silverback. The female is appearing on the ground while the male is on top throughout the copulation.
However as explained that some species like the mountain gorillas and lowland gorilla they mate with females while facing each other and this technique is believed to be very uniquely used among the bonobos (the pygmy chimpanzees)
How to Know the Female Gorilla is ready to Mate
When the gorilla is ready for mating it initiates the process by gently approaching the male silverback by processing her lips together and making prolonged eye contact with him, if the male doesn’t respond to her advances, she then slaps the ground as she moves towards the male as a way of attract ting his attention into Mating.
When the silverback too busy to attend to her sexual needs, then she mates with less subordinate males within the gorilla group.
Do Gorillas Only Mate to Reproduce
It is very unusual for gorillas to have sex/ mate for leisure. However, the females mate to win favor of the dominant silverback and prevent him from mating with other female gorillas in the group.
Giving Birth and Parenthood
Once mating is done and the female gorilla gets pregnant, she will experience gestation period for 8.5 months. The female gives birth once in 4 years. When she is pregnant the breasts increase in size and develops a bump on her tummy. The female gorillas normally give birth in the morning hours.
The female gorillas give birth to only 6 -8 baby gorillas. However, not all will manage to survive to the adulthood stage.
The silverback, male role in the parenthood is to protect the babies from bullies in the gorilla group. This is done when the mother brings the baby close to the male silverback.
Breastfeeding and Weaning
The infant is carried around by the gorilla mother in her hands for the first 4 months. She/he sucks directly and feeds every after 3 hours.
By 5 months, the baby gorilla has gained confidence. Weaning is done when the baby gorilla is about 2.5 years old. High rate of infant gorillas don’t make it to adulthood. Some of the causes of high mortality rate in gorillas is due to reasons such as; trauma in infants which causes 56% death. The respiratory infections also causes high number of death which is 15% in infants.
Change in leadership of the silverback can cause death since the new leader might not protect them from other members of the gorilla group. There is another cause of death in baby gorillas which is illnesses among mountain gorillas such as hepatic capillaries.