Watch These Furious Silverbacks Fight It Out at the Zoo!

Written by Sharon Parry
Updated: March 25, 2023
© Andreas Rose/
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Things can really kick off in the gorilla enclosure at the zoo! This startling footage captures the moment two huge silverback gorillas fall out in a big way at St Louis Zoo in Missouri. This famous zoo houses over 14,000 animals and is known all over the world for the innovative way that it approaches animal management and care. It is a key participant in the Species Survival Plan® (SSP) for gorillas. This is a breeding program that aims to halt the decline of endangered species.

The gorillas in this particular footage are western lowland gorillas and while many of the gorillas are a brownish-gray color, the adult males are easily spotted by their silvery-white hair. This is why they are called “silverbacks.” These two adult males clearly had a problem with each other on this day!

Silverbacks Fight
Silverback gorillas, which are always male, are so named because of their silvery hair.


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We will probably never know exactly what started this disagreement but as we join the scene, the brutal fight is escalating. The shocked human onlookers are horrified as the two primates look as if they are going to inflict serious injuries on each other.

Silverback gorillas are the world’s largest living primates with a fully grown adult male reaching five and a half feet tall and 400 pounds. So, these guys could cause a lot of damage to each other if they choose to! Their natural habitats are the tropical forests of Western Equatorial Africa where they usually lead a calm and gentle life but fights can break out amongst the males. This usually happens when they are protecting their families or when fighting over females.

Silverback intimidate his own reflection
Western lowland male gorillas live with several females as well as their young

©Andreas Rose/

Western lowland gorillas live as family groups of between 5 and 10 gorillas consisting of an adult male (silverback), several females, and their young. This is usually a highly stable arrangement and the silverback will lead his “harem” for many years. The females choose to stay with him because of his ability to provide a high-quality habitat and protection. However, occasionally a lone male decides to challenge the leader and this may be what is happening in the video.

The fight is intense, with a third gorilla appearing to try to help out one of the silverbacks. The fight consists of punching, wresting, slapping and grabbing of fur! There is also a lot of screeching and grunting. In one especially alarming scene, that draws gasps from the watching crowd, one of the gorillas is hauled over a cliff and falls several feet onto hard rocks. However, he appears uninjured and the other gorilla leaps down to pursue him. At this stage, the gorilla that fell is clearly backing off and falls again as he tries to evade his pursuer who does not look inclined to give up! By the end of the video, the enclosure is calm again and the silverbacks seemed to have reached an uneasy truce. Until the next time!

Want to See Some More Animal Fights? Here Are Some of the Best!

The Featured Image

Silverback intimidate his own reflection
Silverback gorilla standing in the forest.
© Andreas Rose/

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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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