Gorillas are majestic animals who are native to Africa. In all, there are two species, the East Gorillas and the West Gorillas. Within the East Gorilla species, you can find the Mountain Gorillas and the Eastern Lowland Gorillas. Within the West Gorilla species, you can find the Western Lowland Gorilla and the Cross River Gorilla.
Unfortunately, each type of gorilla is listed on the endangered species list, falling into either the endangered (mountain and eastern lowland gorillas) or the critically endangered (cross river and western lowland gorillas) distinctions.
In this blog, we’ll be exploring both why the gorilla is such an important creature, as well as why gorillas are currently endangered.
The Importance of Gorillas
More than anything, the four types of gorillas maintain crucial ecological balance to their distinctive regions of Africa.
More specifically, because gorillas have such a diverse vegetarian diet, they have become critical vehicles for the dispersing of seeds. Although there are other animals who help with this task, gorillas are able to spread the seeds of larger fruits that other, smaller animals are incapable of consuming. When gorillas consume a fruit and later expel the seeds, they are helping to perpetuate diverse, supportive ecosystems.
Due to the nature of how gorillas interact with and perpetuate their ecosystems, it’s almost unimaginable to consider the full impact their extinction would bring. What we do know is that animals, ecosystems, and humans alike would be negatively impacted, as without the gorilla many species of plants would no longer have a way to spread their seeds and continue the life cycle.
Outside of their ecological value, gorillas are truly amazing creatures. Our closest living relatives, gorillas share 98.3% of their DNA with humans. Perhaps that’s the reason they’re so intelligent!
Gorillas have been observed disarming basic traps, using sticks and other natural materials to create practical tools, and they have at least twenty-five different vocalizations they use to communicate with each other.
Why Gorillas Are Endangered
As we said above, all four types of gorilla are listed on the endangered species list. Ultimately, their endangered state can be traced to three major factors: habitat loss, poaching, and disease.
Habitat loss is definitely one of the major contributing factors to the endangerment status of gorillas. Over the years, humans have encroached further and further into gorilla habitats for a variety of reasons. Development, war, and the harvesting of natural resources like oil have been primary reasons as to why their habitats have been and in some cases, are still being destroyed.
Poaching is essentially illegal hunting, and considering that every type of gorilla is considered endangered, any hunting of gorillas is illegal. That being said, poaching is still an issue with gorilla conservation. Primarily, gorillas are poached for bushmeat, which simply means wild game meat.
However, gorillas are also still poached for certain body parts that are used for traditional medicines.
Additionally, infant gorillas are often abducted and sold illegally, which effectively removes gorillas and their positive impacts from the environment.
The intentional killing of adult gorillas is especially disheartening considering once a gorilla is removed from its habitat, it takes over a decade for an infant gorilla to mature to the point where it has the same positive impact on its environment as the removed adult. This dramatically affects the overall balance of the ecosystem.
Most recently, the disease Ebola has had a massive negative impact on the gorilla population. Since the 1990s, Ebola has been killing off large groups of gorillas as well as chimpanzees. In some cases, entire gorilla populations have fallen victim to the disease.
The Good News
Yes, this talk of endangerment can be extremely upsetting, but there still is some light at the end of the tunnel. In 2018, the Mountain Gorilla census confirmed that their population is definitely rising. If this trend continues, we may be able to eventually remove the Mountain Gorilla from the endangered species list!
In addition to this, the mere fact that the Mountain Gorilla population is on the rise means that it’s possible to stabilize and eventually grow the populations of the other gorilla types.
Along with the tangible benefits of a growing population, there has been a massive movement to protect our remaining gorilla populations. Groups like the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, the World Wildlife Fund, and the African Wildlife Foundation are all committed to the protection and stabilization of gorilla populations.
Additionally, responsible eco tourism, like the experiences offered from Amahoro Tours, have played a major role in raising both awareness and funds for gorilla and wildlife conservation!
If you’re interested in helping the gorillas, contact us today to learn more and book your eco tourism adventure!