These wonderful creatures inhabit the volcano regions of Rwanda. They are vegetarians and generally eat leafy green foliage and therefore prefer the dense mountain rainforests and subalpine forests of Rwanda. The men are black furred and giant, weighing 350 to 450 pounds and standing 5’6” upright. The women are half to 2/3s their size. The old men grey noticeably with age until they are recognized as silverbacks. The silverbacks lead stable and cohesive family groups held together by long time bonds between the men and women. They are community oriented rather than territorial. The men defend their women and children, and the silverbacks will defend their clan to the death if required. Women bear children on average of once every three or four years and their time of pregnancy is about 8 1/2 months. Newborns have pinkish grey skin and begin to crawl around nine weeks. The children are weaned when they are about 3 ½ years old.
The clans are diurnal, foraging and traveling by day and sleeping by night, when they create nests usually on the ground by folding the dense vegetation over themselves. Generally they forage in the morning and the late afternoon, preserving a the midday for a time of rest. This midday rest is a time for the building and reinforcement of relationships. Mutual grooming reinforces their social affections and keeps their fur clean from parasites. The children play, wrestling and running and summersaulting, and the silverbacks and women often join them.
They are normally gentle and quite shy. Conflicts are generally resolved by intimidating displays and threatening behaviors that rarely lead to violence. But when two clans meet, if the conflict is not resolved by threats, the silverbacks may fight to the death.