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anonymous Mountain Gorilla July 17, 2007 1:59 PM

Mountain Gorilla
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Physical Characteristics

Few animals have sparked the imagination of man as much as the gorilla, the largest of the living primates. Most gorillas live in inaccessible regions in various dense forests in tropical Africa, and one subspecies, the mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei), was not even known to science until 1902.

The mountain gorilla has a robust build with long, muscular arms, a massive chest, and broad hands and feet. It is the hairiest race of gorillas; its long, thick black hair insulates it from the cold of living at high elevations.

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Habitat

Mountain gorillas are confined to four national parks, separated into two forest blocks no more than 45 kilometers (28 miles) apart and comprising approximately 590 sq km (228 sq mi) of afromontane and medium altitude forest. One population of mountain gorillas inhabits the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. A census in 2002 recorded between 310-315 individuals here. The second population of mountain gorillas is found in the habitat shared by Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (Uganda), Volcano National Park (Rwanda) and Virunga National Park -Southern Sector (DRC). The Virunga population numbers at least 358 individuals and has grown by 11% in the past 12 years.

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Behavior

Although strong and powerful, gorillas are generally gentle and shy. They live in groups of 2-40 individuals, averaging about 11. Groups are led by a dominant male, the silverback, named for the silvery gray hairs that grow when the male matures. The silverback serves as the chief leader and protector of the group, to whom all group members defer. He decides when and where to forage, rest and sleep, arbitrates disputes among his family members and protects them from rival silverbacks or human predators.

Mountain gorillas have a slow rate of reproduction. This slow reproduction makes this species even more threatened. In a 40-50 year lifetime, a female might have only 2-6 living offspring. Females give birth for the first time at about age 10 and will have offspring every four years or more. A male reaches sexual maturity between 10 and 12 years. Able to conceive for only about three days each month, the female produces a single young and in rare cases twins.

Newborn gorillas are weak and tiny, weighing about 4 pounds. Their movements are as awkward as those of human infants, but their development is roughly twice as fast. At 3 or 4 months, the gorilla infant can sit upright and can stand with support soon after. It suckles regularly for about a year and is gradually weaned at about 3.5 years, when it becomes more independent.

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Diet

It is perhaps surprising that an animal as large and strong as the mountain gorilla is primarily an herbivore. Mountain gorillas eat over 100 different species of plants. They rarely need to drink since their diet is so rich in succulent herbs, from which they get their water.

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anonymous  July 17, 2007 2:01 PM

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anonymous  July 17, 2007 2:05 PM

Mountain Gorilla Gorilla gorilla beringei
Photo: Profile of a silverback mountain gorilla in the rainENLARGEWALLPAPER
A profile of a silverback mountain gorilla in the rain
Photograph by Michael Nichols
Mountain Gorilla Profile

Only about 650 mountain gorillas survive in the forests of the Virunga Mountains in central Africa. Scientists have studied them intensely since the 1950s, and this estimate is considered to be accurate. These gorillas live on the green, volcanic slopes of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo—areas that have seen much human violence from which the gorillas have not escaped unscathed.

Mountain gorillas have longer hair and shorter arms than their lowland cousins. They also tend to be a bit larger than other gorillas.

Many conservation initiatives are meant to aid mountain gorillas, and it is believed that their numbers may be steady or slowly increasing. Still, they continue to face major threats from habitat loss and poaching.

Gorillas can climb trees, but are usually found on the ground in communities of up to 30 individuals. These troops are organized according to fascinating social structures. Troops are led by one dominant, older adult male, often called a silverback because of the swath of silver hair that adorns his otherwise dark fur. Troops also include several other young males, some females, and their offspring.

The leader organizes troop activities like eating, nesting in leaves, and moving about the group's three-quarter- to sixteen-square-mile (two- to forty-square-kilometer) home range.

Those who challenge this alpha male are apt to be cowed by impressive shows of physical power. He may stand upright, throw things, make aggressive charges, and pound his huge chest while barking out powerful hoots or unleashing a frightening roar. Despite these displays and the animals' obvious physical power, gorillas are generally calm and nonaggressive unless they are disturbed.

In the thick forests of central and west Africa, troops find plentiful food for their vegetarian diet. They eat roots, shoots, fruit, wild celery, and tree bark and pulp.

Female gorillas give birth to one infant after a pregnancy of nearly nine months. Unlike their powerful parents, newborns are tiny—weighing four pounds (two kilograms)—and able only to cling to their mothers' fur. These infants ride on their mothers' backs from the age of four months through the first two or three years of their lives.

Young gorillas, from three to six years old, remind human observers of children. Much of their day is spent in play, climbing trees, chasing one another, and swinging from branches.

In captivity, gorillas have displayed significant intelligence and have even learned simple human sign language.

Fast Facts
Type: Mammal
Diet: Omnivore
Average lifespan in the wild: 35 years
Size: Standing height, 4 to 6 ft (1.2 to 1.8 m)
Weight: 300 to 485 lbs (135 to 220 kg)
Group name: Troop or Band
Protection status: Endangered
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
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anonymous  July 17, 2007 2:08 PM

Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration of the animal's relative size
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anonymous  July 17, 2007 2:10 PM

Gorillas can climb trees, but are usually found on the ground in communities of up to 30 individuals. These troops are organized according to fascinating social structures. Troops are led by one dominant, older adult male, often called a silverback because of the swath of silver hair that adorns his otherwise dark fur. Troops also include several other young males, some females, and their offspring.

The leader organizes troop activities like eating, nesting in leaves, and moving about the group's three-quarter- to sixteen-square-mile (two- to forty-square-kilometer) home range.

Those who challenge this alpha male are apt to be cowed by impressive shows of physical power. He may stand upright, throw things, make aggressive charges, and pound his huge chest while barking out powerful hoots or unleashing a frightening roar. Despite these displays and the animals' obvious physical power, gorillas are generally calm and nonaggressive unless they are disturbed.

In the thick forests of central and west Africa, troops find plentiful food for their vegetarian diet. They eat roots, shoots, fruit, wild celery, and tree bark and pulp.

Female gorillas give birth to one infant after a pregnancy of nearly nine months. Unlike their powerful parents, newborns are tiny—weighing four pounds (two kilograms)—and able only to cling to their mothers' fur. These infants ride on their mothers' backs from the age of four months through the first two or three years of their lives.

Young gorillas, from three to six years old, remind human observers of children. Much of their day is spent in play, climbing trees, chasing one another, and swinging from branches.

In captivity, gorillas have displayed significant intelligence and have even learned simple human sign language.  [report anonymous abuse]
 
anonymous  July 17, 2007 2:17 PM

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anonymous  July 17, 2007 2:30 PM

Biology
Classification and Range
Carl Linnaeus devised the classification system in zoology that we use today. In this system, humans and the three categories of great apes (chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas) all belong to the order Primates. Gorillas, the largest of the great apes, are divided into three subspecies: (1) western lowland gorillas (Gorillas gorilla gorilla), (2) eastern lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla graueri), and (3) mountain gorillas (Gorilla gorilla beringei). The three gorilla subspecies are very similar and show only minor differences in size, build, and coloring. The approximate ranges where each of the subspecies lives are shown on the map of Central Africa.

The eastern and western groups of gorillas are widely separated in location, but so similar in form that they must have come from a single parent population in the not too distant past. Since gorillas will not cross large rivers, such as the Zaire and Ubangi, the eminent gorilla specialist George Schaller suggested that the parent population probably lived in the area shown on the map. Today, most of this hypothetical range is too dry and open to be a suitable gorilla habitat, but during cooler and rainier conditions that existed 5000-7000 years ago, the area would have been covered by a rainforest where the gorillas could have lived.

Population The world's gorilla population is relatively small and still declining. All three gorilla subspecies are listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and by the Convention on International Trade for Endangered Species. There are currently about 50,000 western lowland gorillas living in the wild in West Central Africa. This gorilla is also the type most often seen in zoos. The eastern lowland gorilla population has declined significantly in recent decades. An estimated 5,000-15,000 lived in the eastern Congolese rainforest around 1960. Today only about 2,500 remain in the wild, and only a few dozen live in the world's zoos. The mountain gorillas are the rarest of all and are on the verge of extinction. Only about 600 of these magnificent animals are left in the wild, about 320 in the Virunga Mountains and another 300 in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in Uganda. None are found in captivity.

The population of mountain gorillas in the Virunga Mountains has been watched closely for the last half-century and shows the effects of human interaction, both good and bad. George Schaller estimated that about 450 mountain gorillas lived in the Virungas in 1960. Hunting and poaching reduced their numbers to about 250 by 1981, when the protection efforts of the late Dian Fossey and others brought the decline to a halt. Today about 320 mountain gorillas inhabit the Virungas, but their long-term survival continues to be threatened by natural changes and disasters, hunters and poachers, and the chronic political instability that swirls around the edge of their forest home.

Life Cycle of the Mountain Gorillas Newborn gorillas are small, covered with black hair, and weigh about 2.3 kg (5 lbs). They must be cared for at all times. By age two they are able to reach and chew on vines and branches. They develop about twice as fast as human babies.

Image of a young female gorilla and her baby.  This image links to a more detailed image.Young male and female gorillas are classed as juvenile between the ages of about three and six. During this stage, both sexes have thick black hair and black skin. Juveniles of both sexes increase in size and weight at similar rates for the first six years. At age six they are about 1.2 m (4 ft) tall and weigh about 68 kg (150 lbs). Photo: Courtesy of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

Females mature at about age six and cease to grow taller, although they continue to gain weight slowly until they reach weights of 113-136 kg (250-300 lbs) at ages of ten to eleven years. Males continue to grow both in size and weight past the age of six; they do not reach maturity until they are about ten years old. Between the ages of about six and ten years, males retain the uniformly black hair color of their youth and are called blackbacks.

Image of some male gorillas.When male mountain gorillas reach maturity, they develop a patch of grayish or silver-colored hair on their backs. Consequently, mature males are called silverbacks. Males cease to grow in size or weight after maturity, but at typical heights of 1.5-1.8 m (5-6 ft) and weights of 204-227 kg (450-500 lbs), they are impressively large animals. The silverbacks' large size and distinctive coloring make them very easy to recognize in the wild. Photo: Courtesy of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

The maximum life span of mountain gorillas in the wild is difficult to estimate. The longest-lived gorillas in captivity reached ages of thirty to thirty-five years. No gorilla has been seen in the wild that looked as aged as the oldest captive gorillas, so the life spa  [report anonymous abuse]

 
anonymous  July 17, 2007 2:32 PM

so the life span in the wild is probably somewhat less, perhaps twenty-five to thirty years.

Image of an upset gorilla.The potential for population growth for undisturbed mountain gorillas is comparable to that for human beings. The gestation period is about nine months. Gorilla mothers with an infant may not have another for up to four years. There is also no apparent breeding season, since births of baby gorillas occur throughout the year. However, due to mishaps and disease, many baby gorillas die in the first year of life, and nearly half of all gorillas die before reaching adulthood. Photo: Courtesy of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund


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anonymous Mountain Gorrila,Virunga Vulcanoes,Rwanda July 17, 2007 2:34 PM

Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla g. beringei), Virunga Volcanoes, Rwanda
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anonymous In Memory of Dian Fossey July 17, 2007 2:51 PM

Dian FosseyDian Fossey was born in San Francisco California in 1932 to George and Kitty Fossey. Her parents separated when Dian was a young girl, due to her father's heavy drinking problem and trouble with the law. Dian grew up living with her mother who, a year after the divorce, married Richard Price. Dian's father tried keeping in touch with her by sending her pictures of him in his Navy uniform. However, this did not go well with her mother, who was still angry with Dian's father, so eventually all ties between them were cut.

Dian, like many children, loved animals. The only animal she had growing up was a goldfish. When the goldfish died, she was never permitted to have another animal, not even a hamster that was offered to her by a schoolmate (Mowat, 1987).

Dian started her college education in 1949 at Marin Junior College. Here, she was instructed to study business, which Dian found boring, by her stepfather. Because of her hatred for studying business, Dian set her own path, and enrolled as a preveterinary medical student at the University of California in 1950. Her love for animals as a child followed her into adulthood and reappeared when she visited a ranch prior to college. Dian did well in her zoology and botany courses, chemistry and physics forced her to fail out of school her second year. Because of this failure, she decided to work with damaged children, so she transferred to San Jose State College, graduating in 1954 with a bachelor's degree in occupational therapy.

After graduation, Dian worked as an occupational therapist at Kosair Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. Here, Diana met a woman by the name of Mary White, secretary to the chief administrator at the hospital. Dian and Mary grew to be close friends (Shoumatoff, 1988). At one point Mary invited Dian on a Trip to Africa with her. Dian was desperate to go, however she did not have the financial stability to attend the trip. Her goal from then on was to save her money for her childhood dream to go to Africa to see the variation of animals the country had to offer.

In 1966, after three years of saving, Dian was finally ready to explore Africa. When she arrived in Tanzania, Dian looked up Louis Leaky, an anthropologist who revolutionized the study of human origins. Dian searched for Leaky at his camp and found him there working on his current research. Dian introduced herself to him and explained to him that she was in Africa in hopes to meet the mountain gorillas, and that she had some day hoped to move to Africa to live and work (Shoumatoff, 1988). After the short encounter with Leaky, Dian was back on her way in search of the gorillas.

After spending several weeks in Africa, Dian retuned to Louisville to continue at her job as an occupational therapist. Upon her return from her journey, Dian had published with her photographs of the gorillas she came encounter with during her first trip to Africa.

Three years after she returned from her first trip, Leaky came to town on a lecture tour. A project Leaky wished to research was on gorillas. Leaky theorized that the best person to go out and study this animal was a single woman with no scientific training. He believed that this type of person would be unbiased to the behaviors she witnessed. A woman was also believed to pose less of a threat to the local people, and being single meant she was unattached with no responsibilities, and she would also be willing to work for nothing. Leaky also believed that women were more observant and tougher than men. After a brief interview with Dian, he knew she would be the right person for his research, and offered her the job.

At the end of 1966, Dian set out to Congo to set up her camp. There she was forced out, and relocated to Rwanda. There, she started the Karisoke Research Center, which she directed from 1967-1980 (Mowat,1987). Here in Rwanda, Dian also began observing the gorillas. She lived here for nearly eighteen years among the gorillas. This allowed her to do something nobody had ever done before; she was the first person to have voluntary contact with gorillas, when one of them touched her hand. She had earned their complete trust and was able to sit with them and play with them and their babies. She was constantly studying the behaviors of the gorillas and because of that, she made a huge impact on the relationship of humans to gorillas.

Dian became very attached to a certain gorilla she named Digit. She was able to watch him grow and he was just as fond of her as she was of him. After a few years into their relationship, Dian found Digit killed by poachers. Poachers would use the heads, hand, and feet of the gorillas to make money. In response to the killing of Digit, Dian started a campaign against gorilla poaching. This problem caused large donations from readers on the National Geographic, where an article on Dian's work was published. With this money, she established the Digit Fund and dedicated her life to saving gorillas.

In 1974, Dian returned to the US to obtain her Ph.D. at Cambridge University (Mowat,1987). In 1980, she accepted a visiting associate professorship at Cornell University and started writing her best-selling book, Gorillas in the Mist, which was eventually made into a movie. At this time, she was known as the world's leading authority on the physiology and behavior of mountain gorillas. She defined the gorillas as being dignified, highly social, "gentle giants," with individual personalities, and strong family relationships (Shoumatoff, 1988). After she finished her book, she moved back to Rwanda where she continued her work on gorillas.

On December 26, 1985, Dian Fossey was found murdered in her cabin. Her death is still unsolved to this day, and nobody was ever taken into custody because of her death. It is believed that her killer was a  [report anonymous abuse]

 
anonymous  July 17, 2007 3:00 PM

It is believed that her killer was a poacher who was angry because of her work to stop gorilla poaching. Dian was buried next to Digit in the gorilla cemetery.

Today her gorilla fund is continuing to support ongoing efforts of researchers in Rwanda attempting to protect the remaining population of gorillas. The work of Dian Fossey has raised the awareness of the danger mountain gorillas face. Because of her work we also know much more about the connection between gorillas and humans, and the lives of gorillas and their day-to-day interactions.

Note from me: Dian Fossey - Gorillas in the mist: read her book if you want to know more,or watch the movie,both highly recommanded by me   

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anonymous Silverback ( male) July 17, 2007 3:09 PM

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anonymous  July 17, 2007 3:11 PM

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anonymous re: July 18, 2007 3:00 AM

Thankyou Astrid for the terrific info.      [report anonymous abuse]
 
anonymous  July 18, 2007 4:38 AM

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anonymous Gorilla Island Petit Evengue,Gabon July 18, 2007 1:47 PM

Gorilla island
There is one place in Gabon where a gorilla sighting is guaranteed. Operation Loango runs a rehabilitation programme for gorillas a few hours north of the park on an island in the Fernan Vaz Lagoon. At Petit Envengue, also known as Gorilla Island, it is another young woman who is filling the Dian Fossey role: Penny Elzinga, a 24-year-old from the Netherlands, was just two weeks into the job when I visited. She was on a massive learning curve, but fiercely committed, taking care of the project while also looking after visitors who either drop in for a couple of hours or stay overnight, as I was planning to do.
Penny explained that the gorillas here have either been taken from captivity or orphaned, most likely when their mothers have been killed for bushmeat. A small group of the primates, led by 26-year-old Mbeke, live in an enclosure that has been extended to cover half the island. The plan is to build the group up, then move them to the opposite, larger island, where they would have even more autonomy. From there, they will eventually be released into a wild habitat that has lost its gorillas.
For now, the gorillas don’t have access to enough wild food, so are given supplementary food, such as sugar cane and bananas. In the late afternoon I accompanied a keeper to watch the feeding.

Lyn Hughes and baby gorilla, Gabon
Don't touch the gorillas... unless they want you to

Mbeke looked coolly at me, sending a shiver down my spine as he made eye contact. I lowered my gaze first; it was my turn to feel shy. He was less impressed with my male companion, doing mock charges along the fence and threatening to swing a punch at him. “Bryan’s a strange male, so a threat to his ‘family’,” explained Penny. “Gorillas are usually very gentle, but we think Mbeke has had a terrible past and it has made him very distrustful. Who can blame him?”
Satisfied that he’d made his point – he was the alpha male around these parts – Mbeke went back to the serious business of tucking into a papaya.
Back at the base, a couple of young orphans were being hand-reared. The older one was a boisterous toddler, who age-wise had hit the ‘terrible twos’, and was almost ready to join the main group. Accompanying him on a walk into the woods, he bounded down the path in front of us, playing hide and seek among the tree trunks and dive-bombing us from overhead branches. He completely disregarded the rule that states that gorillas and visitors shouldn’t make physical contact.
The other, smaller orphan, just nine-months old, was also oblivious to the guidelines. Clearly missing her mother, she climbed up into my arms, resisting all my attempts to put her back down.
I melted as she looked at me with large, trusting eyes, and reached out to touch my face and hair.
It had been frustrating not to see a gorilla in the wild. But that’s Gabon for you. Exasperating yet magical. An Eden… but a fragile one.

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anonymous Photo belonging to article of Gorilla Island July 18, 2007 1:50 PM

Gorilla, Gabon
Head to Gorilla Island for a sojourn with a silverback

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anonymous More encouraging news July 18, 2007 1:56 PM

Gorillas to be re-homed on ‘island bachelor pad’.
Lone male Gorilla on Gorilla Island. © The John Aspinall Foundation
5 male gorillas whose efforts to find a female has drawn them to stray into villages in the Congo will be moved to their own specially designed island.

The 5 gorillas were all orphaned by the bush meat trade before being sold into the illegal pet market. After being confiscated from vendors they were cared for by The John Aspinall Foundation (TJAF) which has wide experience in caring for young orphaned gorillas.
TJAF manages nearly 1,000,000 acres of habitat in Congo and Gabon, and the animals it rescues are gradually prepared for release into one of the foundation’s protected reserves.

4 of the gorillas were released into TJAF’s Lefini Reserve in 1996, with the 5th released there in 2003. Lefini reserve is currently home to nineteen gorillas and recently 2 distinct family groups have formed.

Both these groups are led by dominant male silverbacks who will fight off young rival males so that the 5 bachelor males were pushed out.

Subsequently the 5 lone males were forced to range further afield to look for females, a search that led them into human habitations where they helped themselves to villagers’ crops.

Amos Courage, TJAF’s Overseas Project Director, said: ‘Most of the orphan gorillas that have come to us in recent years have been male. It is unfortunate that there just aren’t enough females to keep everyone happy.’

‘Young males can walk for miles in their search for a female, and since the reserve’s wild gorilla population was wiped out through hunting in the 1950s the 5 were forced to look outside of the reserve.’

The TJAF Africa team caught the stray gorillas and thought of a novel solution by creating an island habitat for them, to prevent them straying in the future.

Work has started to convert a sixty acre area of the reserve surrounded by rivers into a dedicated bachelor island for the animals.

Mr Courage said: ‘The animals’ wellbeing is fundamental to our work. By giving these 5 their own island we can avoid future conflicts between gorillas and villagers. At 60 acres the site is large enough for the males to each have their own space and avoid fighting.

‘With TJAF’s continued work in the field of orphan rescue and ongoing captive breeding, hopefully it won’t be long before we find some girlfriends for these chaps.’

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 July 29, 2007 9:01 AM

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Gorilly Girl May 19, 2008 7:21 PM

I guess I will start here...I did a bake sale at my last job everyone laughed at me but the ones that laughed were the ones who bought the pies which I did myslef peeled all the apples and made the dough all by hand it was quite a chore I called it "Apples for Apes" to which I made quite a penny on, but everysingle penny went to Wildlife Direct to help support the "Virunga National Park Rangers" for new supplies like tents, GPS, food rations, boots and hopefully guns.  The gorillys are my loves and hopefully to one day go there to see what I did help to protect.  We can NEVER forget the ones who actually do the protecting and these guys definatly need it.

Big Gorilly Hugs

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 May 23, 2009 11:29 PM

I want to send you a green star, anonimous!

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g'day January 28, 2010 12:34 AM

hello, and thank you for the extensive information about gorillas. peace and love from ildi p.  [ send green star]
 
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