Social LifeHow does a Gorilla father treat his children?

How does a Gorilla father treat his children?

  • Young gorillas like to spend time close to their father. (© Christian Kaiser)

Young animals always search out the group leader who usually is their father as well. They frequently stay close to him, they lean on him and include him in their games. For them a close relationship with their father can be vital. He protects the infants and his care increases their chances of survival if their mother dies or if she leaves the group. In such a case the silverback male is usually the only one who looks after them intensively. He even allows them to sleep in his nest.

Another opportunity for a father to help his offspring is the removal of wire snares which entrap them. He can remove them with his canines. Dian Fossey recorded a case where everything hinted to the snare having been removed by the group's leader.

On the other hand, silverbacks have been observed to deliberately kill babies - especially in mountain gorillas. Usually this is the case after a female transferred to another male together with her baby or if a new leading male takes over. This behaviour, called infanticide, is interpreted as a means to shorten the time until the baby's mother becomes fertile again and the new male can sire his own offspring with her.