Can Gorillas Swim? See Reasons

Can gorillas swim? While some gorillas may be able to swim under certain circumstances, swimming is not a natural or common behavior for gorillas.

Gorillas are among the most magnificent and enigmatic creatures on our planet. Known for their great strength and gentle nature, these primates continue to captivate our curiosity.

But one question that often arises is whether gorillas can swim. In this article, we’ll explore the world of gorillas and their aquatic abilities to answer this question.


The Gorilla Anatomy and Natural Habitat

To understand whether gorillas are good swimmers or not, we must first understand their anatomy and natural surroundings. Gorillas are the largest apes in the Hominoidea family and are actually closely related to humans. There are two species of gorillas:

  1. The eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei): This species of gorilla is further divided into two subspecies: the mountain gorilla and the eastern lowland gorilla. Mountain gorillas are primarily found in the Virunga Mountains, while eastern lowland gorillas inhabit the Democratic Republic of Congo.

  2. The western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla): This species is also divided into two subspecies: the western lowland gorilla and the Cross River gorilla.

Western lowland gorillas are the most widespread subspecies, residing in the forests of Central Africa. Each species of Gorillas has its own different subspecies. Gorillas primarily live in tropical forests in equatorial Africa, like lowlands, montane regions, bamboo forests, and highlands.


Can Gorillas Swim?

Can Gorillas Swim?
Picture of Gorillas swimming

Can Gorillas Swim? The answer is No, Gorillas cannot swim. While Gorillas primarily live near bodies of water that have a bit of dense vegetation and land, gorillas do not use water for swimming and they prefer to approach any body of water with caution.

For instance, some gorillas have been seen testing the depth of water before venturing into it by using tools such as sticks and at times crossing fallen logs or makeshift bridges to avoid getting wet.

Although there have been rare sightings of gorillas swimming, these instances do not indicate their natural behavior, it is likely a result of unique circumstances. In these rare cases, gorillas have been seen diving down to retrieve objects from the bottom of a pool of water, using a breaststroke with a frog-like kick.


Are Gorillas Afraid of Water?

Gorillas cannot swim but contrary to most belief, gorillas are not necessarily afraid of water. The reason for their careful behavior around water is due to their physical traits and their natural habitat not from fear of water.


3 Reasons Why Gorillas Do not Naturally Swim

Can gorillas swim? Here are the reasons why gorillas do not naturally swim.


1. Their Anatomy Makes it Challenging to Swim and Float

Gorillas have unique anatomical features that make swimming difficult for them. Their high bone density, lower body fat-to-muscle ratio, and longer limbs compared to their height all contribute to their lack of ability to float in water, plus they are heavy animals, and their thick bones make them less buoyant compared to humans.

Additionally, gorillas have longer forelimbs than their shorter and stockier back legs. While these limb proportions aid them in climbing, gathering foliage, and defending themselves on land, they make it challenging for gorillas to coordinate their movements in the water.


2. Swimming is Not Instinctual

Unlike animals like ducks or fish, gorillas are not born with an innate ability to swim. Swimming is a learned behavior for most animals, even humans.

Gorillas do not have the instinctive knowledge of how to swim and might potentially drown if they find themselves in deep water without any proper support or guidance.


3. Gorillas Prefer Land and Avoid Water

Gorillas are terrestrial animals, meaning they primarily inhabit and prefer land. Their natural habitat consists of packed forests and vegetation, where they find food and shelter.

Gorillas have adapted to this land-based lifestyle and have developed various behaviors and physical characteristics to thrive in these environments.

Gorillas predominantly obtain hydration from the fruits, leafy vegetation, and morning dew they consume.

They do not rely on bodies of water for drinking or bathing. Instead, gorillas groom themselves and each other using their fingers and teeth.

This grooming behavior not only helps to keep their fur clean and free of debris but also strengthens social bonds within their troop.


Read alsoGorillas Vs Grizzly Bear: Differences Stated


How Long Can Gorillas Swim?

While gorillas are not natural swimmers, they do have the ability to stay afloat and move in water for short distances if necessary.

However, their lack of swimming ability, combined with their heavy weight and heavy bones, limits their ability to swim for extended periods.

The duration for which gorillas can swim or stay afloat in water depends on various factors, like the size of their body, the depth of the water, and their level of comfort in the water, but in general, gorillas are not meant for swimming and are more adapted to terrestrial locomotion.


Can Gorillas Learn to Swim?

The answer is yes. Given the right circumstances, gorillas can potentially learn to swim. However, it is important to note that swimming is not a natural behavior for them.

Learning to swim would require extensive training and acclimation to water, similar to how humans learn to swim.

In the wild, gorillas do not have the opportunity or necessity to learn how to swim, as they live in land-based environments.

If gorillas have access to water sources such as pools, they may be able to learn basic swimming skills under the guidance of trainers or caregivers.


Read more: What is the Process of Birthing a Baby Gorilla?


How Do Gorillas regulate their body Temperature?

Gorillas are prone to overheating in forest habitats, especially during hot and humid conditions. To stay cool, gorillas use the following cooling strategies:

  • Resting in Shade: Gorillas seek out shaded areas within their habitats to escape direct sunlight and reduce their body temperature.
  • Leafy Umbrellas: Gorillas may use large leaves as makeshift umbrellas, holding them above their heads to create shade and block the sun’s rays.
  • Breezy Spots: Gorillas may position themselves in areas with natural air currents, such as open clearings or near water bodies, to benefit from cooling breezes.
  • Sweating: While gorillas do not sweat profusely like humans, they do have sweat glands that release small amounts of moisture to aid in cooling.
  • Panting: Similar to dogs, gorillas may pant to dissipate heat and regulate their body temperature.

These cooling methods help gorillas maintain a comfortable body temperature and avoid overheating without the need for swimming.


Do Gorillas Ever Go in the Water?

Gorillas may occasionally enter shallow water or wade through streams or puddles. But, these instances are limited to situations where they need to cross bodies of water to continue their journey or access food sources.


Read More: Detailed Insights About the Gorilla Silverback Weight


Do Gorillas Drink Water?

Gorillas get most of their water from the fruits, leaves, and vegetation they consume. They do not have to rely on drinking water from bodies of water. Also, gorillas get moisture from the food they eat, which often contains a significant amount of water content.

In addition to fruits and leaves, gorillas eat insects such as termites, larvae, and ants, which provide them with additional moisture. Their unique digestive system allows them to efficiently extract nutrients and hydration from their plant-based diet.



While some gorillas may have the ability to swim under certain circumstances, swimming is not a natural or common behavior for them. Their heavy weight, dense bones, low body fat, and long limbs make swimming challenging. Gorillas prefer to stay on land and avoid large bodies of water.

 So, the next time you visit a zoo and see a moat surrounding the gorilla exhibit, remember that it’s there to contain them in their habitat, or if you see a Gorilla crossing a body of water, it is absolutely necessary.

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