Facts about the animal kingdom

What Is the Disney Tarzan Gorilla Called?

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. May 20, 2024
What Is the Disney Tarzan Gorilla Called?
Image: Disney Wiki

Many of us may remember Tarzan from the 1999 Disney animated feature, but the origins of the character began some 87 years prior. This was due to the publication of Tarzan of the Apes, a novel written by Edgar Rice Burroughs which provides the first appearance of the character Tarzan. During the years between these two projects, the storylines and characters in the wider Tarzan universe have changed and evolved. This includes the apes which are so integral to the story of Tarzan.

At AnimalWised, we ask what is the Disney Tarzan gorilla called? We look at the name of this gorilla character and learn a little about the apes in Tarzan more generally.

You may also be interested in: What Is the Strongest Animal in the World?
  1. Are the apes in Tarzan gorillas?
  2. What is the name of Tarzan's gorilla?
  3. What is the gorilla in Tarzan like?
  4. What kind of gorilla is Terk from Tarzan?

Are the apes in Tarzan gorillas?

Some people looking for the names of Disney's Tarzan characters might wonder if they are monkeys or gorillas. In the original Tarzan books, they were neither. In fact, they were a fictional type of primate known as Mangani. The Mangani were a race of apes which were very intelligent and able to communicate via a complex language. Tarzan was able to learn the habits and language of the Mangani to integrate into their society.

The Mangani were a tribe of apes, not monkeys. However, since they are fictional, they were not the same as any known primate species, whether ape nor monkey. They were quite humanlike in their behaviors and interactions.

In the 1999 Disney version of Tarzan, the ape family is clearly depicted to be gorillas. This is likely due to the fact that the fictional Mangani might be more difficult to transpose to film. By making the apes in Tarzan to be gorillas, the viewers could connect more easily. Disney also has a history of anthropomorphism, so giving the gorillas humanlike qualities is easier than it may have been for Burroughs in 1912.

Gorillas are a type of ape. There are monkeys which appear as background characters in the Tarzan film, but they do not drive the narrative. Instead, they help build the jungle world of Tarzan by representing some of the other inhabitants.

What is the name of Tarzan's gorilla?

The differences between the apes in the books by Burroughs and the Disney animated film are more than just the Mangani being depicted as gorillas. The hierarchy and characters of the apes have also changed.

When we walk about the gorillas in Tarzan, there are a few specific characters which are integral to the story. These include the original characters of Kerchak and Kala:

  • Kerchak: he is the leader of the Mangani in the original novels. He rules with authority and is a rather more fearsome character than in the Disney film. He is complex and even aggressive, often clashing with Tarzan in the jungle. Eventually Tarzan kills him in a battle for dominance. In the Disney film, Kerchak is skeptical of Tarzan, but not as outright aggressive. Rather than dying at his hand, Kerchak eventually accepts Tarzan.
  • Kala: Kala is a mothering figure who originally adopts Tarzan into the Mangani tribe in the novels. Unlike Kerchak, she is loving and protective of the titular character. She raises him as an ape. Although she is more well-rounded in the 1999 Disney film, Kala essentially maintains the same role. One key difference is that she is the partner of Kerchak, rather than Tublat. Tublat's character was essentially fused with Kerchak's.

There is another gorilla who plays an integral part in the Disney film, but who does not appear in the novels. This may lead some to ask who is Tarzan's gorilla? However, there is a problem with this question as it indicates possessiveness. The gorilla closest to Tarzan in the film is a character called Terkina, often shortened to Terk:

  • Terk: this is Tarzan's best friend. She is the niece of Kala and Kerchak, making them adoptive cousins. She does not belong to Tarzan and is actually of a higher status in the social rankings of the jungle community. She is funny and has a caring character, something which bonds her and Tarzan.

Although it is not from Disney studios, there is a 2016 live action film called The Legend of Tarzan. In this telling of the Burroughs story, Terkina is now called Terk and is a male tribal leader. He still maintains the position of friendship and allyship to Tarzan.

Now you know the names of the gorillas in Tarzan, you may want to know the name of the slinky dog in Toy Story.

What Is the Disney Tarzan Gorilla Called? - What is the name of Tarzan's gorilla?
Image: YouTube

What is the gorilla in Tarzan like?

We have already explained a little about the main gorilla characters in Tarzan, but we can develop the Terk character more. Terkina or Terk is an adult gorilla with a less muscular build than other gorillas. She is represented with dark grey fur and has hair that sticks up almost like a mohawk.

Although known for her wisecracks and oafish character, Terk is a very loyal friend. We see Terk develop alongside Tarzan, meaning they are both adoptive relatives and best friends. They experience childhood adventures together which cement their bond. Since she is a gorilla and Tarzan is a human, she becomes very protective over him when other jungle animals treat him like an outsider.

The storyline of Terk in Tarzan is ultimately one of acceptance. Terkina is initially skeptical of the humans who come to the jungle and find Tarzan, including Jane Porter. They provide a threat to the bond she has with him. Eventually, she trusts and accepts Tarzan's decisions. She even fights alongside Tarzan in the end battle of the film.

Discover more about the animals in Disney films with our article on what is the Tiger in Aladdin called?

What kind of gorilla is Terk from Tarzan?

Using the physical and behavioral characteristics of Terk or Terkina in the Tarzan film as reference, we know she is a gorilla. However, due to the specific physical traits and habitat, it is assumed that Terk is an eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei). If you want to know more about these beautiful primates, check out our article explaining the different types of gorillas.

Unfortunately, the eastern lowland gorilla is currently in danger of extinction. This is largely due to habitat loss, but illegal poaching is also a serious issue which has led to various legal and conservation efforts to restore their populations.

Discover more about these impressive animals with our article explaining how strong are gorillas?

If you want to read similar articles to What Is the Disney Tarzan Gorilla Called?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

Write a comment
Add an image
Click to attach a photo related to your comment
What did you think of this article?
Image: Disney Wiki
Image: YouTube
1 of 2
What Is the Disney Tarzan Gorilla Called?