• Gorilla gorilla gorilla;
  • social structure;
  • group composition;
  • multi-male groups;
  • bachelor groups


This paper describes the size and structure of western lowland gorilla groups visiting Mbeli Bai, a swampy forest clearing in northern Congo. An observation platform at the edge of the clearing was used over a 3-yr period, with gorillas visible for 1,681 hr. Data are presented on 14 groups and seven solitary males. Mean group size (excluding solitary males) was 8.4 ± SD 4.3, and did not differ significantly from most other gorilla studies. All groups at Mbeli contained only one fully mature male and did not show evidence of fission-fusion or regular subgrouping. All emigrating males that remained in the population became solitary, and “bachelor” groups were not observed. Methodological issues are raised, including the classification of multi-male groups, and the demographic profiles of other populations are discussed in the light of results from Mbeli. Am. J. Primatol. 56:193–206, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.