Gorillas are among the world’s largest animals, and they are currently in danger of becoming extinct due to reasons related to climate change, human activities that endanger their lands, and constant development measures that disrespect their habitat and needs. Gorillas have a gentle nature, also being a very robust species and the largest primates on Earth.
The adult males develop a crest that runs from the center to the back of the skull, and they can reach a weight of about 450 pounds. On the other hand, the females are about half the size and can reach a height of nearly 4-5.5 feet.
Types of Gorillas
We know two main species and four subspecies of gorillas. They currently inhabit Equatorial Africa, and their land is segregated by around 550 miles of forests in the Congo Basin. Western Gorillas species include Western Lowland Gorillas and Cross River Gorillas, and Eastern Gorillas are divided into Eastern Lowland/Grauer’s Gorillas and Mountain Gorillas.
Eastern gorillas are larger, have longer hair and darker fur than Western gorillas. Western gorillas have brown or gray hair, and they usually have a red spot on their heads. Western gorillas silverbacks light hair runs down their back to their thighs, and Eastern gorillas have a smaller patch of lighter hair on their backs.
Sadly, all of the subspecies are endangered or critically endangered due to hunting for meat, habitat loss, diseases, wildlife trade, and civil wars. Over the past couple of decades, there has been a vast decrease in their population numbers.
Presently, the lowland subspecies outnumber the upland and mountain subspecies. Nowadays, there are only an estimated 880 mountain gorillas left on Earth. Western lowland gorillas account for an estimate of 100,000 individuals in the wild. The Cross River gorilla, which is the largest great ape in the world, only has a population of 250-300 animals left. Their numbers are steadily depleting, and current conditions are not particularly encouraging for breeding or species proliferation.
Reasons Gorillas are Endangered
The numbers of gorillas left on the planet have dropped dramatically in the past few years. Here are some of the reasons gorillas have become an endangered species.
There have been various studies that have linked a parasite called Plasmodium falciparum, which regularly infects millions of humans every year, to the diminishing of gorillas populations. The parasite spawned from a bacteria that affects chimpanzees and is responsible for an estimated 85% of malaria cases in humans. The transmission of this parasite is linked to deforestation, hunting for bushmeat, and logging.
Another disease that has contributed to gorillas being a threatened species is caused by the Ebola virus. Despite the fact that Ebola hasn’t had an impact on the populations living in the wildlife, it still affected the communities inhabiting protected areas. There were an estimated 5,000 gorillas that died due to the Ebola virus during 2001-2005 at the Lossi Sanctuary in the Republic of Congo. Ebola virus is extremely lethal both for humans and animals, those big apes being among the most severely affected species.
In many areas of Western and Central Africa, gorillas are still significantly hunted for meat. Although poaching gorillas is an illegal practice, some gunners find ways to avoid getting caught. The lack of law enforcement in the area also makes it easy for poachers to hunt gorillas. The Endangered Species International carried out an investigation that found one to two gorillas are shot and killed each week for bushmeat in the Republic of Congo.
Apes are hunted to supply the markets in urban areas, where their meat is considered a prestigious habit amongst the wealthy. Either shot and eaten on the spot or smoked for later sales in cities, gorillas are significantly diminishing due to poaching. These giant apes are an easy hunt, and their weight represents a great portion of saleable meat as a basis for profit.
Loss of Habitat
Another factor that has contributed to the decline of gorillas is habitat loss. Commercial logging has increased and destroyed forest areas that represent gorillas natural home. There are roughly 80% of gorillas that live in areas that are not environmentally protected, so these animals are at risk for habitat loss due to human influence. Forests are rapidly decreasing since they are destroyed by commercial interests, for subsistence agriculture and road building.
Civil Wars and Political Conflicts
Past civil wars and political conflicts have caused refugees to move into gorillas habitats. Gorillas subspecies that are currently living in Central Africa is declining due to the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The political conflict, the mining camps and the growth of hunting to feed people are consistently contributing to the depleting of the gorilla’s populations. Since refugees and miners are moving into their habitat, disease transmission is also a grave threat that may cause further loss and depletion of species.
Taking the drastic decrease in the population of gorillas into consideration, it is imperative to take proper measures to ensure they are protected and allowed to repopulate. They would need a protected area to breed, law enforcement to forbid hunting and legal actions that punish people who fail to respect their regions and requirements. Contact us for further conversations on this topic.