Gorillas in the Mist is based on the autobiographical 1983 book by naturalist Dian Fossey. Fossey is inspired by famed anthropologist Louis Leakey to devote her life to the study of primates. Fossey becomes fascinated with the lives and habits of the rare mountain gorillas of the Ugandan wilderness in Africa. Fossey develops a means of communicating with the gorillas and becomes obsessed with the beasts' well-being. She is appalled by the poaching of the gorillas for their skins. She complains to the Ugandan government, which dismisses her by explaining that poaching is the only means by which some of the Ugandan natives can themselves survive. She doesn't accept this, and becomes a animal-rights activist, burning down the poachers' villages and staging a mock execution of one of the offenders.
Dian Fossey first established family groups, which she simply referred to as “Groups”. She proved that gorillas have social bonds that are very family oriented. The gorilla groups consisted of as many as two to twenty one members. These groups consisted of one dominating male Silverback gorilla; some times a few females, and possibly some Blackback males. Unlike popular assumption the dominant Silverback is not always the only Silverback in any one group, but is always the strongest and largest Silverback within the group. The dominating Silverback is usually born into his group and becomes the dominant male after the old dominating male Silverback has died. . The dominant Silverback is the leader of his group. He guides his group throughout the mountains, and he also provides protection for the younger and weaker members of the group. The dominant Silverback has breeding rights to all the females of the group. The Silverback is also the first to breed with the females of the group and often the only to breed; this insures the Silverback that the next generation will be of his seed.
The order within the group’s structure is maintained by this dominant Silverback as well. This social structure is very important to a group’s survival. The female gorillas also have a dominance pattern. The most dominant female is usually the one that has been in the group the longest, and spends most of her time grooming the dominant silverback. Fossey’s had observed numerous groups of gorillas ranging from a lone Silver or Blackback to groups as big as twenty-one with as many as two Silverbacks. Often a female gorillas biological Father would mate with her when she reached sexual maturity sometimes to show the Silverbacks dominance. In some cases because it was the only breeding opportunity within the group. The dominant Silverback would then try and acquire new females from another rival group. These interactions often result in a group losing members, or even acquiring new members.It is the dominant Silverback that will try and intimidate the rival groups Silverback and then take a female through intimidation. he gorillas that Dian Fossey studied all showed a gentle side often not seen from unhabituated gorillas. Dian Fossey stated that gorillas need for contact between members gave them a peaceful way about them. Grooming is a form of contact between group members that is not so much a way of keeping the fur of gorillas clean but a vital social skill that is used as a form of contact between members. This contact between members of a group seemed to comfort the gorillas, and add to the group’s cohesion. Through numerous contacts the younger members of the group often groomed Fossey. From this research Fossey was able to abolish the myth of man eating gorillas.
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