Watch These Furious Silverbacks Fight It Out at the Zoo!

Silverback intimidate his own reflection
Andreas Rose/

Written by Sharon Parry

Updated: October 18, 2023

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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.

Check Out The Entire Video Below!

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!

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.

Silverbacks Fight

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

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.

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.

Silverback intimidate his own reflection

Western lowland male gorillas live with several females as well as their young

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!

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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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