Washington, Feb 13 : Scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society and Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology have released the first known photographs of gorillas mating face-to-face in the wild.
The photographs were part of a study conducted in a forest clearing in Nouabale-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo. They appeared in a recent issue of The Gorilla Gazette.
Thomas Breuer, the lead author of the study, said that the behaviour of the great apes is important as it sheds lights on the evolution of humans and their ancestors.
"Understanding the behaviour of our cousins the great apes sheds light on the evolution of behavioural traits in our own species and our ancestors," he said.
Researchers say that few primates mate in a face-to-face position, known technically as ventro-ventral copulation. Other than humans, only bonobos monkeys have been known to frequently employ this king of mating positions. he team revealed that though mountain gorillas in the wild have been observed in ventro-ventral positions, they had never been photographed.
Western gorillas in captivity have been known to mate face-to-face, but not in the wild, which makes this a first.
"We can't say how common this manner of mating is, but it has never been observed with western gorillas in the forest. It is fascinating to see similarities between gorilla and human sexual behavior demonstrated by our observation," said Breur.
The western lowland gorilla is listed as Critically Endangered as a result of hunting by humans, habitat destruction, and health threats such as the Ebola virus.