Imagine you are hiking high in the mountains of Rwanda in East Africa. You take in the beautiful sights and sounds and ready your camera phone for that perfect shot. Suddenly, you hear a rustling in the bushes. What sounds like a thunderous drum solo in the distance gets louder and louder. Before you know it, you’re face to face with a giant silverback gorilla.
Before you go snapping photos for your latest Insta story, you might want to keep your distance. Otherwise, this could be your last selfie.
Although you might think of gorillas as angry and aggressive creatures, Hollywood doesn’t always show their good natured side. Generally, gorillas are calm and peaceful animals that keep to themselves and thrive on a plant-based diet.
The number of reported gorilla attacks on humans are low and have only occured in situations where they felt threatened, often by hunters or inexperienced zookeepers. Despite their live and let live nature, Gorillas are very territorial and will protect their young at any cost.
If you happen to fall into their pen at the zoo or come across one in the wild, stay calm and listen closely. How do you know if a gorilla feels threatened? Why do they pound their chest? Can a human defeat a gorilla in hand to hand combat?
Alright tough guy, if you think you can take down a gorilla in a fight, think again. Gorillas can lift up to 900 kilograms (1900 pounds) and throw a punch with up to 450 kg (900 lb) of force. That’s like being hit by a truck. As the largest living primates, they can weigh up to 310 kg (683 lb) with an armspan as long as 2.6 meters, or approximately 8 feet.
They also have much thicker skulls and skin than humans, so even if you’re Mike Tyson, you won’t stand a chance. So if you can’t fight them off to survive, what should you do?
Step 1: Stay Calm And Keep Your Distance
Be sure to keep a good distance from the gorilla. If it feels you’re encroaching into its space, it may threaten you by grunting and hooting. Try not to scream or freak out, as this might be seen as an aggressive display from the gorilla’s point of view. If it feels its warning grunts are being ignored, it might stand up and start pounding its chest to really show who’s boss. If you don’t defuse the situation quickly, things could get ugly.
Step 2: Do Not Run
Your first instinct might be to run as fast as you can in the opposite direction. But gorillas respond to hierarchy and may view your quick sprint as a challenge for dominance. And trust me, you do not want to race a gorilla. They can reach speeds of up to 40 km/h (20 to 25 mph). To put this in perspective, Usain Bolt’s world record in the 100-meter dash was 44.72km/h (27.8 mph). So it’s probably best to stay put.
Step 3: Be Simissive & Look Away
Don’t look a gorilla in the eye or make any sudden moves. They don’t like staring contests. You’re better off to look down at the ground. This will make you appear less threatening to the gorilla. Also, as thrilled as you might be seeing this beast in the wild, do not smile. Flashing teeth is viewed as a sign of aggression to gorillas.
Step 4: Make Yourself Small
In the dating world, being tall might be an attractive feature, but if you’re one on one with a gorilla, they may see your elevated stature as a threat. However tall you are, you and your ego will want to get as small as possible. This will show the gorilla that you aren’t the dominant one.
Step 5: Pretend To Be A Gorilla
Okay, please don’t go pounding your chest like a gorilla. You’re not Tarzan. Instead, pretend to nap or eat some foliage to show the gorilla that you are the same. If this still doesn’t work and it charges at you, turn around and get low to the ground. Hopefully, it’ll lose interest by your display of weakness.
Step 6: Do Not Resist
If the gorilla sees through your terrible acting, it may try to scratch you, bite you or drag you around like a doll. I’m sorry it’s not the standing ovation you were expecting. However painful this might be, do not fight or try to escape. Just go limp. If you’re lucky, it will eventually get bored of you. Once the coast is clear, get to safety and seek medical attention immediately if you’re hurt.
- “Are Gorillas A Danger To People?“. Hogenboom, Melissa. 2020.Bbc.Com.
- “Wildlife Photographer Christophe Courteau Captures Amazing Moment Gorilla Winds Up Punch To Knock Him Out | Metro News“. 2020. Metro.Co.Uk.
- “Gorilla Attacks Keeper At Zoo“.William Mullen, Tribune staff reporter. Tribune staff reporters Sam Roe and Jon Yates contributed to this report. 2020. Chicagotribune.Com.
- “How To Survive A Gorilla Attack“. 2020. Ned Hardy.
- “How To Survive A Gorilla Attack -Surviving A Wild Gorilla | Rwanda Gorillas Safari“. 2020. Rwandagorillassafari.Com.