The Gorilla King

NATURE retraces the life of Titus, silverback leader, from birth to present reign, spanning a tumultuous period in the history of a species and a nation in The Gorilla King.

In 1974, renowned primatologist Dian Fossey introduced a young researcher named Kelly Stewart to a gorilla family Fossey was studying. Stewart, daughter of actor Jimmy Stewart, was the first to see a tiny new baby gorilla. She named him Titus, and her journal entry began the up-close observation of his life that researchers have continued to this day. Titus’s turbulent life story, from orphan to ruler and the challenge to his throne today, is chronicled in The Gorilla King.

At 33 years old, the 400-pound silverback Titus has ruled for nearly half his life, an astonishing feat given the early trials he faced. When Titus was four, his father was slaughtered by poachers. Shortly after, his infant sister was killed in a coup attempt by an interloper named Beetsme. It wasn’t unusual; when a male outsider takes over a group, he will kill all the infants in order to sire his own offspring. Titus’s mother and other sister fled, leaving him orphaned and abandoned.

In 1991, at age 17, Titus surprised researchers when he deposed Beetsme in a bloodless coup. Titus was entering his prime, but Rwanda was descending into the chaos of civil war, forcing researchers to flee. It created the only gap in his life’s record.

Follow the entire saga of Titus’s reign in The Gorilla King.

To order a copy of The Gorilla King, please visit the NATURE Shop.

Online content for The Gorilla King was originally posted April 2008.

  • rose fee

    this was one of the best shows on njn

  • Anna McNair

    Titus and Beetsme were two astonishing gorilla’s. I was amazed how they displayed their leadership and how they communicated with the other gorillas.I love watching your show and wish more children would appreciate animals as well. Thank you so much.

  • Judy Cody

    I have followed the research of Diane Fossey from the very beginning, with every up and down turn that has happened to the mountain gorillas. This latest saga of Titus is so amazing. I see so many parallels of the gorillas survival as it compares to human survival, with such a remarkable outcome. It shows the power of youth, and the ultimate wisdom of age, maturity and experience and how it affects the group dynamics. Titus seems to be an exceptional creature and has thankfully produced many offspring that can carry on his genetics.

  • Deneen

    I’m so happy I couldn’t sleep the other night and was able to catch this show. I’ve been telling everyone I know about it and plan on purchasing the DVD. It truly was amazing and it touched me in so many ways.

  • Teresa Deborah Ryle

    I have done a few portraits of gorillas Titus being the next, my last was based on Guy the gorilla from London Zoo, in an effort to try and preserve them as they endangered.

  • james

    A well produced and touching doucmentary.

  • Ciara O’Neill

    Having watched just about every programme on gorillias and Diane Fossey, I found The Gorilla Kinf brilliant both moving and uplifting to see what Titus has accomplished so far in his lifetime. I watched it last night with my nine year old son who was equally entralled in the life of Titus, after the programme I gave him the article from the National Geographic about Who killed the Mountain Gorillias, he is so enthused about this area now that I felt I had to write and thank you for helping me give my other another direction in the bigger picture in life to follow instead of him being confined to just his local surrounds. Hopefully with more exposure to similiar information he might grow up to help the cause of such a beautiful creature.

  • ada

    I watched this last night , absolutely blew me away, I adore gorillas any way but this was amazing and humbling to be able to see them like this.

  • James Hughes

    Thank you for bringing this to our tv screens, i enjoy watching all wildlife documentaries but this one really moved me, i hope this is not the last we hear of Titus, he is so intelligent and sophisticated, i think he could of still defeated Kuryama but he chose not too, i think this is shows he decided to go gracefully and keep his dignity, when most Gorillas would have chose to fight Titus just said ive had my time thank you very much,

    will there be a follow up soon on his new off spring ? any info let me know


  • emily joseph

    dear nova thankou for your educational show.It teaches us kids, about the world around us, gives ideas. All of the documentaries that you guys bring on, is so great. Hope you continue what you all are doing, give us more information on the world, and much more.

  • Andrew H hernandez Jr

    bless you for this documentary of Titus the gorilla king,I’ love all animals Gorillas & elephants Im, fasinated with .Breaks my heart when people hurt this creatures.Wish there were more people like you.

  • Karen

    TITUS is truly a king — if he wasn’t a gorilla, his life would be comparable to the most heartwrenching and inspiring Shakespearean drama. I realize now how intelligent these creatures are and more humanE than most human beings might act when faced with similar life, death and survival situations, foregoing personal power for the good of the group. When Titus led his group to the top of the mountain, I truly believe he did so to as his final duty of a king, in order to relinquish his power in non-violent way to his son…how intelligent is that? Made me cry with his wisdom and intelligence and I am in awe of this creature. Bless the beasts and their children…
    Long Live Titus.

  • Chris Scroggins

    How interesting that Titus, who rose to power without violence ended his reign the same way! It seems as if he purposely brought his troupe up to the top of the mountain in order to facilitate the transfer of power to Kuriyama. I wonder whether Titus know instinctively that Kuriyama is his true son.

  • candice cadogan

    I loved it one of the best shows Ive seen so far on the nature programs. I wish there was more. Its messed up how his family seperated.

  • larry t

    If you look at the Wikipedia page, it says Titus reunites with his son Kuryama and the main group and supports his son as the dominant male.

  • Crystal Ann

    How can I contribute for the safty of the gorrilas?

  • wayne earp

    we could learn so much from gorrilas, if only we were more like them!AMAZINGLY TOUCHING.

  • Ray C. Telfair II, Ph.D.

    Why was one of the gorillas named “Beetsme” rather than “Beatsme”?

  • Reverend Ronnie Stark

    I thought I wasn’t in the mood for a nature flick and then this one started. It held my attention for every minute. It is a fantastic production, very educational and touching.

  • yvette medina

    could you please tell me when this documentary will be aired again?

  • Alliecat

    Titus is an amazing gorilla one day I’m going to study the gorilla’s when I’m older!

  • D. Hernandez

    Incredible…please air this again…thankyou

  • David Oates

    Utterly marvellous story isn’t it? But not unique. Last year I sat with a band of 15 in SW Uganda. The alpha male was named Nkuringo and he was dying of old age. 2 weeks later he was found dead and his no. 2 Safari took over. Safari never challenged Nkuringo for the top spot; he protected him in his old age.

  • John Pearson

    I watched the programme, about the story of titus last night on TV. What a story, what a leader. The program really did convey a sense of the intelligence of the Gorilla, how we so naturally never appreciate them. The most telling part of the program for me was when Titus’s son takes over the group yet some stay loyal to Titus and remain with him, a bloodless coup and no recrimination, how enlightened, how intelligent how much we can learn, brilliant!

  • Kim Houk

    Words cannot express how sad I am hearing of Titus’ death on 9/14/09. I just happened to catch the broadcast of “Titus, the Gorilla King” over 2 years ago. I was truly fascinated and inspired by his story. As a result, I immediately became a member of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Foundation and ‘adopted’ a mom/baby gorilla and this year, a baby gorilla. I was so touched that I became a volunteer at my zoo and have joined the primate committee where I can inform the public about these magnificent creatures. So, thanks Nature for share Titus’ story with us. I know my life is forever changed.

  • olga

    What a fantastic program about the life of gorillas in Rwanda. I cried at the end when I saw Titus allow Kurayama to take over, like if he know it was his son. And the way he did it without any fights. I am also impressed that there is loyalty amongst animals as well. Only a few remained with him, incredible. This is like our own lives…when you get old only the loyal remain, the rest will leave.
    Thanks to all the scientists and people who work to bring us the lives of these precious primates.


    Touching Story.

    Does anybody knows what happend to the orphan that remain with Titus til the end?

  • Hope

    I was watching the show on july 3, 2011 it was great i was wondering is titus still alive?

  • Brad Jones

    Hope, at the top right of this page you’ll see a link that reports Titus died in Sept ‘09…….. This was a magnificent portrayal of our gorilla relatives.

  • W. Rafert

    I’m thinking about showing this to my history classes when I start teaching. I think anthropologically it can give us a better idea of what our ancestral societies might have been like during the early years of our evolution as primates. I guess it just goes to show how important this research really is and how we should absolutely want to protect gorillas and other primates as our natural brothers so to speak.

  • truth seeker

    Thanks so much for sharing. Peace, Love and Blessings!

  • JCR

    There is a follow up video that shows Titus other son Rano pushing him to fight for days on end. Titus moves for 10 days with Rano on his heels spoiling for a fight to take over. For whatever rerason the last video is not available to me in my area. Anyway it says however that Titus was dying from his wounds and could not fight any longer so I imagine he left what was left of his group and died and Rano took over that group. Very sad.
    when you see pictures of Titus when he was young he was very impressive!

  • Sean O

    does anybody have any information about the gorillas

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