Mountain Gorillas: All in the Family

It takes from three to six months for a family of Mountain Gorillas to accept the company of a human researcher. But once this “getting used to” period is over, the scientist is afforded a rare glimpse into the lives of these fellow primates. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

“A gorilla family generally consistes of a male, sometimes two or three, with anywhere from one to eight or so females, and then their children. They have very stable families, individuals stay together, they are born into the group and then stay there until they are mature.”

Amy Vedder is director of Africa programs for the Wildlife Conservation Society. For the past twenty years, she’s been studying Mountain Gorilla families in the African countries of Rwanda, Zaire and Uganda.

“When I was with the one family that knew me best, I really did feel like I was accepted, in some ways, as a gorilla or an individual in the family. I seemed to rank somewhere amongst the adult females in dominance. I definitely was subordinate to the adult male, and to one or two of the females. But I felt that others would defer to me when I wanted to pass through an area and they certainly weren’t concerned about my competing for food with them. They were still a little concerned that I not do anything that would threaten their children certainly, and that was something that I was always careful about. But I found it amazing to the degree that I was accepted into the family. There were times when youngsters would come up and basically invite me to play, bang on my back, or pull at me or try and get me to wrestle. And it was all I could do to refuse. I was a scientist out there in the field, trying not to influence their behavior. But it was tremendously tempting to roll around and play with the gorillas.

Additional funding for Pulse of the Planet has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Mountain Gorillas: All in the Family

Among her adopted gorilla family, Amy Vedder ranked among the adult females, but her reluctance to affect the gorillas’ behavior kept her from coming too close.
Air Date:05/12/1998
Scientist:
Transcript:

It takes from three to six months for a family of Mountain Gorillas to accept the company of a human researcher. But once this "getting used to" period is over, the scientist is afforded a rare glimpse into the lives of these fellow primates. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

"A gorilla family generally consistes of a male, sometimes two or three, with anywhere from one to eight or so females, and then their children. They have very stable families, individuals stay together, they are born into the group and then stay there until they are mature."

Amy Vedder is director of Africa programs for the Wildlife Conservation Society. For the past twenty years, she's been studying Mountain Gorilla families in the African countries of Rwanda, Zaire and Uganda.

"When I was with the one family that knew me best, I really did feel like I was accepted, in some ways, as a gorilla or an individual in the family. I seemed to rank somewhere amongst the adult females in dominance. I definitely was subordinate to the adult male, and to one or two of the females. But I felt that others would defer to me when I wanted to pass through an area and they certainly weren't concerned about my competing for food with them. They were still a little concerned that I not do anything that would threaten their children certainly, and that was something that I was always careful about. But I found it amazing to the degree that I was accepted into the family. There were times when youngsters would come up and basically invite me to play, bang on my back, or pull at me or try and get me to wrestle. And it was all I could do to refuse. I was a scientist out there in the field, trying not to influence their behavior. But it was tremendously tempting to roll around and play with the gorillas.

Additional funding for Pulse of the Planet has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.