Watch a Male Silverback Lay Down the Law to Stop a Brawl

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Written by Sharon Parry

Updated: November 9, 2023

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Two baby gorillas
© Eric Gevaert/

Any parent who has had to break up a fight between their kids will know where this silverback is coming from. Gorillas share 98% of their DNA with humans, and after watching this video, we can see that they also share plenty of parenting dilemmas. Watch this and see if you can relate!

When a Play Fight Gets Too Rough

Silverbacks Fight

Silverback gorillas generally weigh 430 lbs and are capable of lifting 1,700 lbs


The video notes, explain that we are watching a play fight between two-year-old Dembe and his younger sister Tumani. Lurking in the foreground is Rafiki, an adult male silverback, who is obviously on babysitting duty. He closely monitors proceedings as the two younger gorillas have a great time.

They chase each other, roll around, and lunge at each other. They also bounce off the equipment, swing from the ropes, and balance on the low wall. So far, so good!

But then things start to get a bit rougher. Dembe forgets his size and gets a bit carried away. Or perhaps his younger sibling is getting on his nerves, and he’s had enough of her antics? Dembe starts to rough her up a bit which makes Rafiki move forward, but the silverback decides that things are still under control and lets the kids get on with it.

Things get a bit more serious when Dembe sits on top of Tumani and appears to grasp her around the neck. She escapes and leaps onto the hammock, but Dembe follows her, grabs her, and hurls her onto the ground head first! There are gasps from the human on-lookers, and silverback Rafiki decides that enough is enough. He charges over, and all he has to do is stand there to have an immediate effect on Dembe. The younger male retreats immediately, and the game is over. Tumani’s Mom arrives, and the little gorilla climbs onto her back. That’s it, kids. If you can’t play nicely, the game is over!

Silverback Gorillas in Charge

Silverback gorilla

Silverbacks are mature male gorillas that are in charge of a group and keep careful watch over youngsters, too

©Jurgen Vogt/

Silverbacks are not a species of gorilla. It is a term that is used to describe mature males. They develop gray or silver hairs that appear in a saddle pattern covering their lower back.  It makes them stand out from the rest of the group and helps the other members to know who is in charge. A group of gorillas consists of between 6 and 30 animals, and they are led by one or two silverbacks who protect their territory and the other gorillas. As we see here, they also have babysitting duties!

There are two species of Gorillas: eastern gorillas and western gorillas. There are also five subspecies. The two species live about 560 miles apart in the forests of equatorial Africa in the Congo Basin. Gorillas are vegetarians who live about 35-40 years. Unfortunately, gorillas are on the Critically Endangered list.

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About the Author

Dr Sharon Parry is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on dogs, animal behavior, and research. Sharon holds a PhD from Leeds University, UK which she earned in 1998 and has been working as a science writer for the last 15 years. A resident of Wales, UK, Sharon loves taking care of her spaniel named Dexter and hiking around coastlines and mountains.

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