Scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society and Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology have released the first known photographs of gorillas performing face-to-face copulation in the wild. This is the first time that western gorillas have been observed and photographed mating in such a manner.
The photographs were part of a study conducted in a forest clearing in Nouabal-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo that appeared in a recent issue of The Gorilla Gazette.
Understanding the behavior of our cousins the great apes sheds light on the evolution of behavioral traits in our own species and our ancestors, said Thomas Breuer, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and WCS and lead author of the study. It is also interesting that this same adult female has been noted for innovative behaviors before.
The western lowland gorilla is listed as Critically Endangered as a result of hunting by humans, habitat destruction, and health threats such as the Ebola virus.
The female gorilla in the photograph, nicknamed Leah by researchers, made history in 2005 when she was observed using tools another never-before-seen behavior for her kind in the wild. Breuer and others witnessed Leah using a stick to test the depth of a pool of water before wading into it in Mbeli Bai, where researchers have been monitoring the gorilla population since 1995.
Researchers say that few primates mate in a face-to-face position, known technically as ventro-ventral copulation; most primate species copulate in whats known as the dorso-ventral position, with both animals facing in the same direction. Besides humans, only bonobos have been known to frequently employ ventro-ventral mating positions. On a few occasions, mountain gorillas have been observed in ventro-ventral positions, but never photographed. Western gorillas in captivity have been known to mate face-to-face, but not in the wil
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Wildlife Conservation Society