A gorilla’s lifespan is between 35 and 40 years, although zoo gorillas may live for 50 years and more. Dallas Zoo’s Jenny was the oldest living gorilla in captivity until 2008, when she died at the age of 55. Now it is Colo – on 22 December 2011 she celebrated her 55th birthday at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Communication

Twenty-five distinct vocalizations are recognized, many of which are used primarily for group communication within dense vegetation. Sounds classified as grunts and barks are heard most frequently while traveling, and indicate the whereabouts of individual group members. They may also be used during social interactions when discipline is required. Screams and roars signal alarm or warning, and are produced most often by silverbacks. Deep, rumbling belches suggest contentment and are heard frequently during feeding and resting periods. They are the most common form of intra group communication.

Behavior and ecology

The mountain gorilla inhabits the Albertine Rift montane cloud forests and of the Virunga Volcanoes, ranging in altitude from 2,200–4,300 metres (7,200–14,100 ft). Most are found on the slopes of three of the dormant volcanoes: Karisimbi, Mikeno, and Visoke.  The vegetation is very dense at the bottom of the mountains, becoming more sparse at higher elevations, and the forests where the mountain gorilla lives are often cloudy, misty and cold.

The mountain gorilla is primarily a herbivore; the majority of its diet is composed of the leaves, shoots and stems (85.8%) of 142 plant species. It also feeds on bark (6.9%), roots (3.3%), flowers (2.3%), and fruit (1.7%), as well as small invertebrates. (0.1%). Adult males can eat up to 34 kilograms (75 lb) of vegetation a day, while a female can eat as much as 18 kilograms (40 lb).

The home range size (the area used by one group of gorillas during one year) is influenced by availability of food sources and usually includes several vegetation zones. George Schaller identified ten distinct zones, including: the bamboo forests at 2,200–2,800 metres (7,200–9,200 ft); the Hagenia forests at 2,800–3,400 metres (9,200–11,200 ft); and the giant senecio zone at 3,400–4,300 metres (11,200–14,100 ft). The mountain gorilla spends most of its time in the Hagenia forests, where gallium Vines are found year-round. All parts of this vine are consumed: leaves, stems, flowers, and berries. It travels to the bamboo forests during the few months of the year fresh shoots are available, and it climbs into subalpine regions to eat the soft centers of giant Senecio trees.