Gorillas Battle to Rule 'Kingdom of the Apes'

Nat Geo Wild heads to Rwanda and the Congo to capture the drama of gorilla groups.
4:16 | 07/15/14

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Transcript for Gorillas Battle to Rule 'Kingdom of the Apes'
We've all probably seen a movie version of man versus ape. But tonight we're traveling far from home where real primate power struggles are taking center stage. I need to speak to Caesar! Reporter: From this weekend's box office hit "Dawn of the planet of the apes" all the way back to the 1933 classic "King Kong," the fictitious conflict between man and ape has long captivated us. Apes do not want war! People are fascinated because of how much they remind us of ourselves. They're magical creatures, highly intelligent, highly social. And there's something very fascinating and very mysterious about them that makes them I think alluring to all of us. Reporter: "National geographic" spent several years deep in the jungles of Rwanda and the Congo documenting the lives of those mysterious beasts in their special "Kingdom of the apes." Primates are unique in the animal world in that all of the behavior is learned. Very -- just like humans. There is no instinct. It's really what they get from the parents. Reporter: Like their human counterparts, these 400-pound gentle giants endure plenty of drama. They form alliances. They form bands along the same lines of political lines. And there is that desire to be the leader. Reporter: Here in the mountains of Rwanda, the voting booth is replaced by natural selection. Their fearless leader is Titus, a 400-pound silver back. Titus is an amazing gorilla. He held that family group together for more than 30 years, which is unheard of really in the gorilla world. Reporter: And now it's Titus' own son, koriama, who threatens his seat in this gorilla "Game of thrones." Gorilla groups are very stable. But in a situation like Titus, where he's -- he's older, he's not as capable. An opportunity presents itself for other silver backs who are pining away for that position. Reporter: Will this finally be the end of Titus '30-titus' 30-year reign? In gorilla groups the silver back is always leader. The female also has a huge voice. The female has to want to follow that leader or he loses the entire family group. Reporter: Titus leads his tribe 4,000 feet up the mountains. But koriama follows. Here at the top of Mt. Vesoki, in nearly freezing temperatures, the tribe must choose between the two. After a three-day standoff, koriama wins a majority, leaving tight does with only six of his most loyal subjects. Meanwhile, to the west, another battle is brewing in the remote Congo rain forest. Where scientists only recently discovered there could be as many as 100,000 gorillas making up many tribes. This one led by king. There's no question he's a good silver back. And his females seem to feel the same because they've stuck with him a long time too. Reporter: Now an outsider threatens to dethrone him. With surprisingly nonaggressive tactics, king fights off the challenger. They will chest beat, they will charge, they will take a large branch and knock it to the ground. So all of these things are done to intimidate the opponent. Reporter: Finally, the opponent backs down. And kingo's kingdom is safe. Not all gorillas are cut out to be leaders. And not all gorillas are ever going to achieve that. And so there is a vying for this position. But very few gorillas get to be silver backs. "Kingdom of the apes" airs next Thursday, July 24th, on nat geo wild.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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