How do you differentiate Chimpanzees from Gorillas

By Daudi Mutalya Balye – Chief Exploring Officer Buutu Safaris

Many times people will come visit Uganda and Rwanda to see mountain Gorillas and Chimpanzees but often confuse gorillas for chimpanzees.These two Apes  have distinctive features,and this is how you will be able to tell a difference on your next primate safari in Uganda and Rwanda.

Comparing Mountain Gorillas vs Chimpanzees;


While mountain gorillas and chimpanzees are both Great Apes, the former belongs to the Gorilla Beringei  species while the latter is part of the Pan troglodytes species.

It is undeniable that humans are closely related to these primates but the chimpanzees share more DNA with us (98.6%) compared to the Gorillas that share 98.2% only. This less than 2% genetic difference is remarkable.


Mountain Gorillas have a long and thick fur coat, blue-black or brownish-gray in color, which provides insulation against colder temperatures. Young, reproductively immature male gorillas are known as “blackbacks.” Fully mature males sport a swath of silver-colored hair along their backs, leading them to be called “silverbacks.” This silvering begins at about age 13.

As babies, chimpanzees’ expressive, human-like faces are bare of fur and pinkish in color, as are the palms of their hands and soles of their feet. But as they mature, this pinkish skin coloring changes to black. White beards adorn the underside of chins for both males and females.

The chimps also have large ears that frame the faces of these primates and provide them with excellent hearing. Endowed with good eyesight and color vision, chimpanzee’s forward-facing eyes allow them to clearly focus on objects. 


It is for a fact that both gorillas and chimpanzees are intelligent species but when you compare them, chimpanzees are more intelligent compared to the mountain gorillas.

During your Uganda Gorilla & Chimpanzee Safari, you will notice their intelligence owing to the fact that they are more closely related to us humans.

Size, strength and Lifespan

Mountain gorillas weigh approximately 227kg(500 pounds) and are 6 feet tall compared to the chimpanzees that weigh approximately 68 kgs (150 pounds) and are  5 feet tall.

As a matter of fact, gorillas are known to be the largest Apes in their family line and surprisingly, they are 10 times heavier and stronger than humans.

Average chimpanzee lifespan in the wild is between 45 and 50 years, with some living as long as 60 years. Then for mountain gorillas in the wild it is 40 – 50 years.


Like their human cousins, chimpanzees are omnivores. That is, their diet consists of both plant and animal life. While the bulk of their diet is seasonal fruits, leaves, flowers, bark, seeds, and nuts, chimpanzees also hunt and eat mammals smaller than themselves, including other primates such as colobus monkeys. Groups of chimpanzees have cooperated to successfully stalk and kill young antelopes, often using sticks as weapons. To munch on one of their favorite snacks, termites, chimpanzees will use a twig to dislodge the insects from their nests. They use rocks to smash open nuts and use leaves to catch water.

Mountain gorillas eat a mostly vegetarian diet that consists of leaves, stems, bark, shoots, roots, flowers, and fruit. Less than 1 percent of its diet comes from insects. Adult males consume up to 75 lb (34 kg) a day; adult females consume up to 40 lb (18 kg) a day. Gorillas get their daily water requirement through the plants they eat.


Chimpanzees and gorillas are both social primates, which you will attest to during our primate tours but the fact still remains that the former are more sociable, friendly, welcoming, and will be attentive to your presence.

Gorillas on the other hand are down to earth but docile, quite shy, and prefer going about their daily routines.

Geographical location and nature of habitats

These Great Apes live in the dense rainforests of Africa and can’t live in the same home range owing to their protective and territorial behavior.

However, you will be surprised by how gorillas live in far more isolated locations than their counterparts that can stay in less dense vegetation like forested savannahs. This isn’t possible with the gorillas that occupy the humid rainforests, most cases in isolated locations.

The mountain gorillas (one of the sub-species of gorillas) for instance live in the dense rainforest on mountains hence making it more difficult to track gorillas than it is with chimpanzees.

Gorillas prefer building their nests on the ground and live in relatively smaller families/groups of 5-20 individuals while chimpanzee nests are mainly built on trees and they live in larger communities/troops of up to 40 individuals.