The Science of Gorillas

The care of animals as complex as gorillas requires a sophisticated management strategy. Luckily, gorillas are among the most well-studied animals in the world, and the SSP® benefits from the wide range of behavioral research being conducted on wild and captive apes. But even with this vast array of information, there remain many unanswered questions that can help address issues of animal husbandry and well-being, as well as the conservation of the species in the wild.

Gorilla Ethogram

An ethogram is a catalog of a species' behavioral repertoire. The Gorilla Behavior Advisory Group of the Gorilla SSP has compiled a compilation of over 45 gorilla ethograms.

To cite this document (APA format):

Ogden, J., Schildkraut, D., Baker, A., Beck, B.B., Bennett, C., duBois, T. et al. (1991). Compilation of gorilla ethograms. Atlanta, Georgia: Gorilla Species Survival Plan, Gorilla Behavior Advisory Group.

Current Research

AZA Gorilla Research Overview

Gorillas in captivity provide opportunities both to learn about the species and to use science to improve the well-being of its captive members. See a list of publications generated from research on gorillas in AZA zoos, 2000-2008. Studies listed here are taken from AZA's Annual Report on Conservation and Science.

Submitting a Research Proposal to the SSP

Submitting a Proposal:
Any researcher may submit a proposal to the Gorilla SSP for endorsement/approval for the following reasons:

  • To encourage AZA institutions housing gorillas to participate in their research project.
  • To obtain a letter of endorsement/approval of their research project to aid in receiving funding.
  • To gain access to the gorilla studbook.

Proposal Review Process:

  1. Proposals are sent to the Chair of the Gorilla Species Survival Plan (Kristen Lukas, Ph.D) or to either of the two research co-advisors (Nancy Hawkes, Ph.D. and Elena Less, Ph.D.).
  2. The chair and research advisors will either request more information from the principal investigator of the project or if satisfied with the research proposal, post it to the Gorilla SSP Management Group and Advisors Listserv.
  3. The management group then votes on the classification that they feel is appropriate for the proposal.
Definitions of Voting Classifications for Proposals Submitted to the Gorilla SSP Management Group:
  • ENDORSE: High priority, good science; we highly encourage zoos to do whatever they can to accommodate project; furthers goals of the Gorilla SSP.
  • APPROVE: Moderate priority, good science; institutions should participate if they can.
  • PASS: Low priority, questionable science; not relevant to Gorilla SSP goals.
Current Gorilla SSP Research Projects | Completed Projects