Silverback gorillas are known to be friendly, peaceful, and gentle primates, especially towards human beings. Scientists emphasize that we share approximately 98% to 99% of our genetic makeup with these majestic creatures. It is, therefore, not surprising when these animals exhibit behaviors, emotions, and actions similar to ours.
An interesting example was captured on video by a group of tourists taking pictures of a silverback gorilla.
A Frustrated Gorilla
The video shows a gorilla that seems to be walking around and minding its business when it suddenly stops to listen to the tourists as they capture photos and videos of the animal.
The gorilla then turns, moves toward the glass barrier, and looks directly at the camera. Despite the tourists shouting encouraging words, which the gorilla likely doesn’t understand, the gorilla doesn’t seem impressed by the attention.
A few seconds later, the gorilla bends downwards as if reaching for something from its genitals, only to raise its hand back while showing its middle finger at the tourists.
It’s difficult to decipher what the gorilla meant by this gesture. Judging by its blank facial expression, the gorilla wasn’t too happy at the tourists’ gawking.
Alternatively, the gesture could have demonstrated its frustrations with life in captivity, or maybe it wasn’t impressed with the noise made by the excited tourists.
Gorillas have a variety of verbal and non-verbal communication patterns. As we’ve already established, some of these communication methods resemble those used by humans. But in most cases, the gorilla’s actions likely mean something different than they would if a human did them.
For instance, opening its mouth while showing no teeth is its play face. In humans, this could mean a surprised look. An open mouth with teeth displayed is a submissive smile in gorilla language. In humans, a similar gesture would also imply a smile.
Gorillas can be loud and very active during verbal communication, making different sounds with different meanings. The gorillas often mix actions with sounds to clarify their message.
Male gorillas, like the one in the video, like to dominate and seldom return to a challenge, especially when it’s from immature or younger gorillas. If a gorilla believes it can win a challenge, it will go for it.
The gorilla in the video may have interpreted the loud noise as a challenge and walked directly to face it. Its direct stare at the cameras demonstrated its bravery.
If the challenge were from a younger gorilla in the cage, the silverback would have reacted by screaming while rapidly beating its chest with its hands. The noise and hand gestures signal the other gorilla to back down or face battle.
Gorillas, especially those kept in captivity, have demonstrated that they can learn how to communicate with humans. An example is Koko, a gorilla that attracted attention for learning and communicating with humans using sign language.
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