Are Gorillas Dangerous?

Western Lowland Gorilla with strong, angry look on face
© Jeff W. Jarrett/

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley

Published: April 16, 2022

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Gorillas are pretty interesting mammals. Like humans, they are apes and have been featured in various movies like King Kong, George of the Jungle, Congo, and the Gorilla. These movies portrayed them as intelligent animals. They interacted with humans and were capable of doing basic things humans do. In the George of the jungle, they were friendly to non-threatening humans. But in King Kong, the gorilla was portrayed as hostile to humans. But is any of this true? Are gorillas dangerous? Let’s find out the facts in this post! 

Are Gorillas Dangerous?

Gorilla - Gorilla Howling and Showing Teeth

If left unsupervised, gorillas may attack humans and other animals.


Gorillas are sometimes dangerous. Because they are wild animals, they are not used to being around people; they may attack them or other animals if left unsupervised. However, you may have come across several articles that said gorillas are not dangerous. Well, that is only partly true. Gorillas will not attack unprovoked, but they will attack if they feel threatened or invaded just to defend themselves. As a matter of fact, they usually run away when humans approach.

Although they are mostly gentle and reserved, it’s not advisable to go near one. These apes are very strong and sometimes unpredictable. They weigh an average of 250 pounds and will best the strongest human in a fistfight. Besides, they have long-canine teeth that can bite off flesh from animals. If you ever come across one, either in captivity or in the wild, you shouldn’t do anything that shows that you are a threat to it.

Can Gorillas Attack Human Beings?

Gorilla staring at the camera

It’s uncommon for gorillas to attack humans.


Although it’s not common for gorillas to attack human beings, it happens. And most times, when they do, they only do so to defend themselves. For instance, a report mentioned that gorillas attack invaders who try to capture their babies. So attacking only happens when they have to protect themselves. And when gorillas attack humans, they can maul or kill their victims. 

One such unfortunate incident was reported by Dutch News where a gorilla called Bokito from the Blijdorp Zoo in Rotterdam attacked a woman. It was reported that prior to that, children had been throwing stones at the gorilla. Sadly, the victim was severely injured by the animal. It’s safer for zoos to protect their visitors by putting barriers between the gorillas and the visitors. Besides, they must supervise visitors, so they don’t provoke these animals. 

Has a Gorilla Ever Attacked a Human?

There are several real-life instances where a gorilla attacked a human. One is the Rotterdam case that was mentioned earlier. Another unfortunate situation happened more recently at the Madrid Zoo. The victim was a zookeeper, and she was severely injured as well. One thing common to most attack cases is that the gorillas were provoked, although, in the Madrid case, the gorilla was merely startled by the invasion.

Another interesting case was discovered in Cross River State, Nigeria, where Gorillas were found using weapons to protect themselves from human invaders. Attacking humans is a pure defensive instinct and doesn’t come from being predatory for these mammals. There are rare instances where the attack is fatal.

Will a Gorilla Eat a Human? 

Big silverback male Western lowland gorilla

Because gorillas are herbivores, they won’t eat humans.

©Andreas Rose/

Gorillas will not eat humans. Why? These apes are pure herbivores and have no interest in meat. So even when they attack humans or kill them, they do not eat the bodies. The gorilla diet primarily consists of stems, fruits, leaves, bamboo shoots, roots, and bark of trees. They have canines and incisors that help them crush and rip through tough tree barks and fruit shells. 

However, they may use their canines to bite animals or humans whenever they have to defend themselves. Besides, whenever threatened, they show off their canine teeth to predators to scare them away. But this doesn’t make them any less dangerous. An uncurbed attack could prove fatal, so it is better to rescue an attack victim from a gorilla.

Are Gorillas Intelligent?

Gorillas are very intelligent mammals. They pick up habits that are peculiar to human beings. Like dogs and cats, they can be trained, even to do more extraordinary things than those pets. One of the most spectacular instances is that of Koko, the Gorilla. 

Koko was taught sign language, and she did just master the skill but was also able to master over a thousand signs and understand about two thousand English words. Furthermore, she was able to take a mirror selfie of herself like every other pretty lady. Koko’s case remains just one of the many instances in which gorillas were able to pick up human-level skills. Studies show that gorillas share 98% of their genetic compositions with humans. 

Are Gorillas Friendly?

Generally, gorillas are reserved and calm. They usually mind their business and are not outwardly friendly. But this doesn’t mean they are mean animals. Mountain gorillas are the friendliest of this species. Besides, they can be trained to be more receptive and accommodating to human beings. They are found to be more receptive to people. 

Typically, in the wild, when gorillas see people in their territory, they might perceive them as a threat, and if attacked, they will defend themselves. It’s safer to stay away from one when you come across it in the wild. They are unpredictable, and while you are trying to be friendly, they may think you are trying to attack them.

Can I Have A Gorilla As a Pet?

Because they are unpredictable, gorillas are not great pets. There are reports of gorillas attacking their keepers. Imagine a situation where you are playing innocently with a gorilla, and it perceives it as a hostile move instead. Then it decides to attack. Pathetic, right? That’s one reason you should not keep them as pets.

Additionally, it’s not safe to keep them around children. In some states like Florida, they are illegal to keep as pets. So, it’s not a great idea to have a gorilla as a pet. 

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