My Semester With Gorillas

The Behavioral Biology course at Simmons College includes a research project, where a study system is selected and a behavior is chosen to observe. In this case, we chose to observe the western lowland gorillas at the Franklin Park Zoo and their tendency to make contact with the glass surrounding the glass

gorillagroupThe western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) is a species of gorilla that has been observed for years in wild and captive settings. However, not many studies have been conducted to collect data on their interactions with humans in their captive environment. To observe these interactions, it was predicted that the intensity of the gorilla behavior (contact with glass) would increase with the number of human observers. Three adult male gorillas, three adult female gorillas and a juvenile gorilla were observed by four researchers at the Franklin Park Zoo for two months. The gorillas’ behaviors were monitored on a 1-5 scale based on intensity, this intensity level was then associated with the number of observers present.

1 – Light tap on glass

2 – Repeated or sustained tapping on glass (one hand)

3 – Repeated or sustained tapping on glass (two hands)

4 – Very hard fist onto glass

5 – Body slam onto glass

According to the data collected, there was an association between an increase in the intensity of the gorilla’s behavior and the amount of observers that were present.Therefore, it can be concluded that the hypothesis for this study was supported because the intensity of the gorillas’ behaviors increased as the number of observers increased. It has been determined in past studies that an increase in population density amongst gorillas in captivity can increase aggressive and dominant behavioral events, suggesting that an increase in human population could have a similar effect.

Not only did I gain observational insight into the behavior of gorillas this semester, but I gained an appreciation for this amazing species and the stark differences and startling similarities between them and humans.

gorilla collage


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