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

Written by Sharon Parry
Updated: August 30, 2023
© Eric Gevaert/
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Key Points:

  • Gorilla parenting appears to be much like that of their human relatives.
  • Young gorillas demonstrate the exact playful nature and rivalries of human children.
  • Silverback gorillas are not a separate type but just indicate the coloring of adult males.

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 vid, we can see that they also share plenty of parenting dilemmas too. 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


In the vid notes it explains 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.

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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.

Don’t Miss These Playful Gorillas Get Reprimanded in this Video

Gorillas at play get repremanded

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About the Author

Sharon has a Ph.D. in Public Health but has spent the last decade researching and writing about all things connected with animal health and well being. As a life-long animal lover, she now shares her family home with three rabbits, a Syrian hamster, and a very energetic Cocker Spaniel but in the past she has also been a Mom to Guinea Pigs and several cats!She has a passion for researching accurate and credible information about pets and reviewing products that make pet owners' lives a bit easier. When she isn't checking out new pet products she's trekking around the Welsh mountains and beaches with her dog - although she lets her husband and her three grown up daughters tag along sometimes if they are lucky!

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