The gorilla is something of a paradox in the African scene. One thinks one knows him very well. For a hundred years or more, he has been killed, captured, and imprisoned in zoos. His bones have been mounted in natural history museums everywhere, and he has always  exerted a strong fascination upon scientists and romantics alike. He is the stereotyped monster of the horror films and the adventure books, and an obvious (though not perhaps strictly scientific) link with our ancestral past. Yet, the fact is we know very little about gorillas.

The Gorilla: Michael
Michael The Gorilla

No really  satisfactory photograph has ever been taken of one in a wild state, no zoologist, however intrepid, has been able to keep the animal under close and constant observation in the dark jungles in which he lives. Carl Akeley, the American naturalist, led two expeditions in the 1920’s, and now lies buried among the animals he loved so much. But  even he was unable to discover how long the gorilla lives, or how or why it dies; nor was he able to define the exact social pattern of the family groups, or indicate the final extent of their intelligence.

The Gorilla Michael - Sign Language
Michael, a gorilla who was taught sign language, described waching his mother die.

All this and many other things remain almost as much a mystery as they were when the French explorer Du Chaillu first described the animal to the  civilised world a century ago. The Abominable Snowman, who haunts the imagination of climbers in the Himalayas, is hardly more elusive.



A. What do the following mean?
1. ‘captured’ (line 3):
2. ‘mounted’ (line 4):
3. ‘stereotyped’ (line 6):
4. ‘link’ (line 7):
5.’intrepid’ (line 11):
6. ‘constant’ (line 12): .
7. ‘indicate’ (line 17):
8. ‘extent’ (line 17): 9. ‘elusive’ (line 21):

1. Why is the gorilla something of a paradox in the African scene?
2. What are the three basic facts about the gorilla which Carl Akeley, the American naturalist, failed to find out? a) b)

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