• Gorilla gorilla;
  • habituation;
  • Mondika


Habituation of western gorillas to human presence is generally an expensive, lengthy and difficult process. Here we describe the habituation process for two groups of western gorillas at the Mondika Research Center, with the hope that the lessons we learned will facilitate future gorilla studies. We expand upon earlier studies by describing the process through complete habituation for both males and females, and for more than one group. The major obstacle to habituation was developing sufficient tracking skills to follow gorilla trail on a daily basis. Once this was achieved, the silverback became semi-habituated (i.e. ignoring human presence during half of contacts) within a year, although the majority of group females continued to avoid humans. As female presence at contacts increased, a period of male recidivism followed, requiring an additional year before his complete habituation was reached. Habituating the females took longer than the male, but we found, contrary to earlier studies, that it consisted of the same stages, including avoidance, aggression, and curiosity before habituation. We compare results between groups and across sites and discuss how factors such as tracking abilities, group size and cohesion, population density and home range overlap, and the manner of approaching gorillas during contacts influence the habituation process. Am. J. Primatol. 69:1354–1369, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.