How To Survive A Gorilla Attack

How To Survive A Gorilla Attack

Gorillas, the largest primates in the world, can stand up to 1.8m tall and weigh upwards of 180kg. They’re normally very peaceful animals – more Koko and less King Kong – but a dominant silverback male has the strength of several men, and isn’t afraid to use it to defend his troop.

The chances of you coming face to face with a gorilla are small, even if you live in their natural habitat. They tend to avoid people and do their own thing. But if you ever go on a jungle expedition, or you’re worried you might fall into the gorilla pit at your local zoo, it doesn’t hurt to know what to do if you’ve made a gorilla mad.

How do you know you’ve upset a gorilla? If a gorilla thinks it is in danger, it will make threats first – such as loud grunts and hoots. If that doesn’t drive you away, it will escalate its threats by propping itself on its feet, and pounding its chest at a very fast tempo.

At that point, if you don’t take submissive action, it might charge and attack with vicious bites, strikes, scratches, and may even attempt to grab your leg and drag you away.

People not following the rules. Woman almost gets dragged away.

Here’s what you should do the moment you’ve encountered a gorilla:

  1. Slowly crouch down and make yourself small.
  2. Avert your gaze from any nearby gorilla and look away. Attempt to look disinterested.
  3. Gradually create distance between you and the gorillas without making any sudden moves.

Those simple behaviours tell a gorilla that you aren’t a threat, and that you have no interest in challenging it. If it does charge you, and it isn’t a bluff (most are), turn away from it and lower yourself all the way to the ground. Go limp if it decides to examine you. Eventually it will get bored of you and move on.

No matter what, never:

  • Run from the gorilla.
  • Show your teeth.
  • Raise your arms and try to make yourself look bigger.
  • Scream and shout.
  • Thump your chest in return – not even as a joke.

Those actions may provoke the gorilla to defend its territory and you’ll probably get seriously hurt. Fortunately, gorilla attacks are very rare (even in zoos and sanctuaries) and most attacks are provoked or defensive in nature.

This is part of Lifehacker’s Animal Attacks Series. As capable as we humans think we are, bears, snakes, wolves, sharks and even bees can turn a fun day outside into a harsh, potentially life-threatening reality check. Here’s what to do when you find yourself face to face with some of the deadliest beasts in the great outdoors.


  • Being around Gorillas fighting in the wild was one of the scariest things that ever happened to me. The guide next to me said, “don’t move” and I’m staring at the arse end of a silverback coming towards me as he’s being chased and fighting with another silverback. Luckily they weren’t interested in us humans, but it was quite a show watching them fighting. I remember just thinking, “hopefully at worse i’ll just be knocked down.”
    Afterwards when it was over and I went to move, my leg was shaking. I have never ever experienced that before or after.
    Amazing adrenaline rush.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!