Did you know that gorillas are actually one of our closest relatives- with 98% of the same genes? But unfortunately, they’re in danger of going extinct soon.
These amazing creatures are one of the most endangered animals on our planet. Can you believe that back in 2010, there were only 480 gorillas left in the world? That’s insane! But there’s some good news too. In 2019, 124 baby gorillas were born, which brought the population up to 604. However, we still need to be careful because habitat destruction and diseases have been taking a toll on gorilla populations for years.
In this article, we’ll focus on the information about the remaining gorillas, the reasons why they face danger and what role we can play in reversing it. You’ll also find some interesting facts about these cheerful and entertaining creatures along the way.
So without further ado, let’s jump right in.
Gorilla Species Found Across the World
Gorilla species can be categorized into
- Eastern Gorillas
- Western Gorillas
1. Eastern Gorillas
Eastern gorillas are the largest apes on the planet and are found in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The contemporary name for the Eastern lowland gorilla is Grauer’s gorilla.
Unfortunately, the Eastern gorillas are critically endangered, with only around 5,000 left in the world.
Eastern gorillas can be classified into two subspecies;
1.1. Eastern Lowland Gorilla (Grauer’s gorilla)
The eastern lowland gorilla is the biggest of all four gorilla races. These incredible creatures have distinctive short muzzles, huge hands, and a stocky build that sets them apart from other gorillas.
Unfortunately, the population of these majestic creatures has drastically declined over the past few decades. In the mid-1990s, there were around 17,000 eastern lowland gorillas.
However, today biologists estimate that the population has decreased by more than 60%.
1.2. Mountain Gorilla
Mountain gorillas have unique physical features to adapt to the cold climate; this includes thick, long hair and fur.
Sadly, the expansion of human populations into forests and mountains is forcing them to relocate farther up the chilly mountain slopes, which can be dangerous to their health.
Mountain gorillas are critically endangered, with only around 1,000 remaining in the world.
2. Western Gorillas
The western gorilla is the most prevalent species of gorilla, having a different nose structure and a lighter skin tone compared to their eastern counterparts. It’s estimated that there are around 316,000 western gorillas left living in the wild.
These are further divided into two subspecies;
2.1. Western Lowland Gorilla
Western lowland gorillas are known for their unique way of moving – they knuckle-walk on all fours, with their weight borne on their curled third and fourth fingers.
Their arms are longer than their legs, and are the smallest subspecies of the western lowland gorilla.
2.2. Cross River Gorilla
Cross River gorillas have several distinguishing physical features. They have dark hair covering their entire body, and their hair is thicker and longer than that of western lowland gorillas.
Like other gorillas, they have large hands and feet with opposable thumbs and big toes, which help them climb trees and grasp food.
Their nostrils are smaller and more widely spaced than other gorilla subspecies, which may help them breathe easier in their high-altitude habitat.
Only an estimated 200 to 300 individuals are left in the wild.
In the 1980s, fewer than 400 mountain gorillas were left in the world, and their future was uncertain due to critically low population numbers.
Thanks to conservation efforts, their population has since increased to just over 1,000, providing hope for their continued growth. However, despite these efforts, the species remains endangered due to various threats.
1. Habitat Loss
The loss of habitat is a major threat to the survival of gorillas, as they cannot easily adapt to new environments outside of their forest and mountain habitats. Deforestation caused by mining, logging, farming, and road construction activities has significantly reduced the gorilla’s habitat.
Furthermore, these human activities have led to the accessibility of previously inaccessible forest areas by poachers. Commercial logging, agriculture, and transportation infrastructure have enabled easier transportation of bushmeat from the forest, contributing to the poaching of gorillas.
Poaching for bushmeat remains a serious threat to wild gorilla populations, as their body parts are in demand for traditional medicines and charms. The species is vulnerable to population collapse due to its slow reproductive rate, and even moderate levels of poaching can have long-lasting effects.
Furthermore, gorillas often fall victim to traps set for other forest animals, causing injury or death through illegal hunting.
3. Lenient Law Enforcement
In many regions where gorillas live, there are laws in place that prohibit killing and trading their products. However, the lack of effective law enforcement has resulted in the continued illegal trade and poaching of these animals.
Merely having laws is not enough; their strict implementation is crucial, and this is a significant factor contributing to the endangerment of gorilla
The Ebola virus has been a major threat to the gorilla population in Africa, causing widespread deaths in numerous populations.
In fact, between 2002 and 2003, over 90% of the 600 gorillas infected with the virus died.
Additionally, gorillas are susceptible to contracting various human diseases due to their similarity to humans, which puts them at risk of contracting illnesses such as scabies, tuberculosis, and other infections from human interactions, particularly in areas where gorillas raid farms and interact with humans through tourism.
5. Forest Destruction
Human activities such as deforestation and forest fragmentation have led to habitat destruction and the separation of gorilla populations. Land mines and uncontrolled bushfires are also significant threats that result in the death of many gorillas.
Poachers, in particular, leave fires uncontrolled after burning the vegetation, which can spread and destroy the entire forest. Accidents such as throwing a lighted cigarette in the bush can also start fires.
6. Low Reproduction Rate
Gorillas have a distinct reproductive process that involves having only one offspring at a time and a long period of raising them before having another. Due to this slow reproductive rate, gorillas are especially vulnerable to population declines.
What We Can do to Save Gorillas
Anyone can help save gorillas from extinction, and it doesn’t require a lot of effort. Even small actions can have a big impact in the long term.
Here are some ways you can play a part in this good cause:
1. Avoid places with Gorillas if you’re sick
Don’t go on a gorilla hike if you’re sick. Gorillas are susceptible to various diseases as they have been isolated from humans for a long time. They are particularly vulnerable to respiratory illnesses, ranging from minor colds to severe pneumonia.
To prevent the animals from contracting such diseases, it is recommended that anyone with a fever avoid trekking gorillas.
2. Boycott Poachers
If you’re visiting areas where gorillas live, it’s important to avoid purchasing any items made from animal parts. Although poachers may not always target gorillas specifically, they often hunt other species in the same national parks. The presence of poachers can impact the entire ecosystem and increase the risk of disease transmission.
Therefore, it’s important not to buy anything if there is any doubt about where it came from, as it can play a part in preventing animal extinction.
3. Increase Your Gorilla Knowledge
Being concerned about animals and understanding the importance of wildlife conservation is essential. It’s important to realize that wild animals are not suitable as pets. By recognizing this fact, the trade of exotic pets can be reduced, which in turn helps protect both animals and humans. Our environment, including endangered and threatened animals, require our attention, care, and awareness.
4. Donate, Donate, Donate!
If you want to help save mountain gorillas, donating to local organizations that work towards their conservation is a great way to do it. Researchers have been working for years to figure out the most effective ways to save these animals.
Many of these organizations rely on grants and donations to continue their work, so it’s important to choose a reputable one before giving your money. Take the time to research the organization and ensure that it is achieving its goals.
Now that you’re at the end of the article, we’ve rewarded your dedication with 5 fun facts about this precious animal!
1. Kind Giants
Gorillas are generally peaceful animals and rarely display aggression towards other animals or humans unless they feel threatened or provoked. Despite their large size and strength, gorillas are known for their gentle nature and have even been observed caring for injured or sick members of their group.
2. Family Matters
Gorillas are social animals that live in small family groups called troops. A typical gorilla troop consists of about ten members led by one dominant male called a silverback.
The Silverback is responsible for protecting and providing for the group. He leads the group to different areas to find food and shelter and also ensures their safety from predators and other threats.
3. Temporary Nests
What Tarzan taught us wasn’t exactly true. Gorillas are not sedentary animals and usually do not stay in one place for an extended period.
They are constantly on the move, particularly in search of food, which makes up the majority of their daily activities. Each morning, they embark on their journey in search of food and only rest at night.
4. Gorillas are almost Humans
Sharing 98% of DNA is not a small thing.
The genetic similarity between gorillas and humans is due to the fact that we share a common ancestor that lived around 10 million years ago.
5. They’re Geniuses
From the above point, it’s easy to guess this one.
A chimpanzee’s ability to use tools is particularly fascinating, as it demonstrates a level of cognitive flexibility that was once thought to be unique to humans.