Yes, gorillas are considered an endangered species. There are two species of gorillas: the eastern gorilla and the western gorilla, both of which are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The main threats to gorillas include habitat loss due to deforestation, poaching, and disease. Additionally, civil unrest and conflict in some areas where gorillas live can also pose a significant threat to their survival. Conservation efforts are underway to protect gorillas and their habitats, including the establishment of protected areas and conservation programs aimed at reducing poaching and promoting sustainable development.
Gorillas are fascinating primates that are divided into two species, the Eastern and Western gorillas, each with distinct subspecies. The Western gorillas comprise the Western lowland and Cross River gorillas, while the Eastern gorillas are composed of the Mountain gorillas, known as Gorilla beringei beringei, and the Eastern lowland gorillas, also known as Grauer’s Gorillas.
Gorillas live in social groups of 5 to 10 individuals, led by a dominant male called a silverback, who makes decisions for the group and ensures their safety from other gorilla families, among other responsibilities. These intelligent and powerful creatures are threatened by habitat loss, poaching, and disease, making conservation efforts vital for their survival.
Where to see endangered gorillas in Africa
In Africa, mountain gorillas live in central Africa’s forested mountains in two populations: the Virunga Mountains population and the Bwindi Impenetrable national park in Uganda. Tourists can comfortably see endangered gorillas in three countries: Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In Uganda, you can see gorillas in two national parks: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, which is home to half of the world’s gorilla population, and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
In Rwanda, gorilla tours happen in Volcanoes National Park, which is one of the most visited gorilla destinations in Africa because of its ease of access. Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Virunga National Park and Kahuzi Biega National Park also offer decent gorilla trekking tours to tourists.
The biggest threats to endangered gorillas in Africa
Gorillas share about 98 percent of their DNA with humans, making them closely related to people and hence susceptible to human diseases such as flu and colds. When gorillas are exposed to human diseases, it becomes difficult for them to fight the diseases because they lack strong immune systems. As a result, the disease spreads to other individuals in the family because they live in groups and they begin to die, reducing gorilla numbers in any gorilla destination.
A gorilla habitat is lush tropical rainforests, where the cool, damp environment supports a diverse range of flora that provides essential nourishment for these herbivorous primates. Gorillas feed on a variety of plant-based foods, including bamboo shoots, stems, fruits, and nettles, as well as insects such as ants. The complex forest ecosystem is crucial to the survival of gorillas, as it provides the great apes with both food and shelter, allowing them to thrive in their natural habitat.
The survival of gorillas is increasingly threatened by habitat loss because of a range of factors, including a growing human population in surrounding communities. As these communities expand, people clear forests for agricultural purposes, livestock breeding, and the production of firewood and charcoal, among other uses. These activities have a devastating impact on gorilla habitat, destroying the forests they rely on for food and shelter and, in some cases, killing gorillas as a result of human-wildlife conflict. To ensure the long-term survival of gorillas, it is crucial to address these threats through sustainable land-use practices and active conservation efforts.
Civil wars and regional instabilities
In recent years, civil wars and regional instabilities in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have had a devastating impact on mountain gorillas, pushing them to the brink of extinction. Despite these challenges, gorilla destinations such as Volcanoes National Park, Bwindi National Park, Mgahinga National Park, and Virunga National Park remain safe and stable, thanks to the efforts of dedicated conservationists and park rangers who work tirelessly to protect these critically endangered animals. By supporting ecotourism and promoting sustainable development, these parks provide a vital source of income for local communities while also safeguarding the future of these magnificent creatures.
Lack of awareness
Some people poach mountain gorillas in the wild due to a lack of awareness about the importance of gorillas in society and the country; therefore, people in the surrounding communities need education about the importance of gorillas to motivate them to conserve the great apes and to notify authorities in the event of any gorilla threats.
Gorillas are an endangered species because of the threat from poachers. These illegal hunters set traps to catch wild animals such as antelopes and bush pigs, among others, for bushmeat trade. They then end up trapping gorillas since they are mobile and always on the move in search of food. Poaching was rampant at Volcanoes Massif Area when Dian Fossey was still researching mountain gorillas, but following her death, the government began fighting to poach, and there are currently no reports of poaching in the park. However, poaching occurs on occasion in Congo’s Virunga national park, where poachers shoot gorillas for a variety of reasons, including profit.
Poeple poach mountain gorillas for their meat. Some individual say that it is tasty, resulting in a strong demand for gorilla meat in the market. Because of the country’s poverty, bushmeat trade is often to other nations, such as Europe.
- In traditional medicine, self-made healers utilize gorilla parts as charms by traditional healers or witch doctors. Hence gorillas face the dangers of poaching to get body parts for charms.
- For private trophies, individuals hunt or kill gorillas and retain their bodies as trophies to show off their might or fortune.
- Pet trade: Some locals kidnap newborn gorillas from their moms and sell them to foreigners who wish to keep them as pets in their homes or a private zoo. People who kidnap infant gorillas may end up murdering the mother since female gorillas are protective of their young ones and may die while protecting their babies from poachers. The infants they transport to the zoo also perish because gorillas are not accustomed to living in such settings, which include dietary modifications. This is also a hazard to gorillas, resulting in fewer gorillas.
How we can protect gorillas from extinction?
There are several ways in which we can protect gorillas from the threats they face, including:
- Keeping a 7-meter distance from gorilla families during gorilla trekking tours and activities
- Refraining from going on gorilla trekking activities if you are suffering from illnesses that can easily spread to gorillas, such as the flu and cold.
- Do not trash or toss food particles when in the forest or the vicinity of the great apes since this might transfer illnesses to the gorillas.
- Raising awareness among locals about mountain gorilla poaching and illegal trading.
- Assisting the surrounding community through development initiatives such as agriculture and water projects, among others.
- Supporting local businesses such as art and craft, community projects such as visiting Batwa communities around Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks, Iby’iwacu cultural village in Volcanoes national park where gorilla poachers earn a living through cultural performances such as dances, music, and storytelling, and so on.
- Visiting gorilla families on gorilla trekking tours in Africa destinations where they live. A portion of the park’s revenue from gorilla trekking is donated to the neighboring community through development projects like the construction of clinics and schools, which raises people’s living conditions.
- The success of mountain gorilla conservation is because of the transboundary coordination between the park authorities of Virunga National Park, Bwindi National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, and Volcanoes National Park.