FactsHow intelligent are Gorillas?

How intelligent are Gorillas?

  • Silverback in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (© Uwe Kribu)

Of all primates, humans have the heaviest brain by far, averaging 1,250 g. Second comes the gorilla with a brain weight of approximately 500 g. However, brain size alone is not a reliable indicator of the animal's mental abilities. If the relationship between brain and body weight is considered, the gorilla comes last in a comparison with the other apes and humans.

Compared to chimpanzees, gorillas are calm, reserved and patient. They are less adaptable and curious than chimpanzees and they don't show the same inclination to imitate. These two ape species have completely different characters - and that is why it is not easy to compare their intelligence.

Whether gorillas are conscious of their own identity is still disputed. Scientific experiments have been conducted where a mirror was presented to the animals and their reaction was observed. The results were contradictory: In some experiments the gorillas were reported to have recognised themselves, in others they didn't.

Behavioural scientists study the mental abilities of animals by observing their natural behaviour. Every ape species has its own specific intelligence, which developed as an adaptation to the environment it lives in.