Help children learn about and appreciate the interdependence of an ecosystem that allows it to sustain itself.
Interdependence, or connections, is the mechanism that allows a complex system like a tropical forest to sustain itself. Recent field studies involving western lowland gorillas demonstrate how humans and natural events affect forest ecology. For example, logging, forest elephants, winds, lightning, and honey-gathering indigenous people topple trees that let sunlight reach the forest floor. Light encourages new plant growth, which in turn feeds and shelters wildlife, including gorillas and people.
Gorillas feed on seasonal ripe fruits. They pluck their own meals from 100 ft. (30 m) up in the canopy, or share the dropped remains of a guenon's lunch with forest hogs and bongos. Western lowland gorillas and other fruit eating animals leave undigested seeds in their dung as they travel or rest. Gorillas like to build their overnight nests in open areas. There, light can reach seeds fertilized by dung--new trees for the future!
Gorillas are just one link in a tropical forest's life cycle. Termites digest plant materials and leave inorganic nutrients to nourish the growing forest. Leafcutter ants feed leaf parts to the fungi they cultivate for food. Along with thousands of insects and numerous birds, most bats feed on nectar or fruits, pollinating flowers and dispersing seeds as they travel. As long as each organism continues its role, the tropical forest system remains in balance, and energy continues to circulate.
1. Have the students draw pictures of the following items:
2. On the board, write the following questions:
1. Lead the group in a discussion of gorillas and their habitat. Emphasize the interdependence between the plants and animals as discussed in the background information.
2. Have the students, working individually or in small groups, draw lines connecting the pictures of the elements they've drawn that are interrelated.
3. Allow them to discuss how and why these elements depend on each other and have them
write the answers to the questions on the board on the back of their sheet.
1. Have the students hypothesize what would happen if one of the elements on their sheet were to disappear from the jungle. What difference would it make if the gorilla became extinct? What if the fruit trees in the area were cut down? What if there were no humans living in the jungle?
2. This activity is suitable for classroom use or as a field trip activity at a zoological park that houses gorillas and other African jungle animals. The background and gorilla information should be covered before the trip and the students can fill out their sheets at the park.
Scientific Classification|Habitat and Distribution|Physical Characteristics and Special Adaptations|Senses|Behavior|Diet and Eating Habits|Reproduction|Birth and Care of Young|Communication|Longevity|Conservation Issues|Bibliography|Specific Index
SeaWorld/Busch Gardens Animal Information Database
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