January 07, 2022 | Bujo Safaris
Gorillas are recorded as endangered on the IUCN red list. The biggest primates recorded on earth were just removed from critically endangered to endangered status in the last couple of years as their threat to survival was greatly reduced and their population surpassed 1000 individuals in wilderness. This progress was made possible due to the many international bodies and respective local governments that have strived to achieve this milestone though it is still a long way to go.
Gorillas are subdivided into four subspecies from the main two sub-species - Eastern and Western gorillas. The four subspecies are grouped as eastern lowland gorillas and mountain gorillas falling under the eastern gorillas while Cross River gorillas and western gorillas belong to the Western gorilla sub-species. Gorillas in the wild live in groups called families of about 4 to over 30 members headed by a dominant male known as the “silverback”.
The Western gorilla is differentiated from the Eastern gorilla by a distinctive browner coat of fur as opposed to the darker and thick coat of the eastern gorillas. A few other differences can be told apart from the structural forms of different species. Gorillas have a life span of 35 to 40 years in the wild and usually give birth to one baby from 3 to 4 years. Of all the subspecies, the mountain gorillas receive the most attention and countless guests travel to meet one of them before they leave earth.
Gorillas in the wild are only known to inhabit a couple of countries with tropical or subtropical rainforest only found in the Sub-Saharan region. These countries include Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo – Brazzaville, Uganda, Rwanda, Cameroon, Central African Republic and a few other countries. The mountain gorilla resides in a span of habitants located in the Virunga Volcanoes and montane forests of the Albertine Rift.
It's estimated that there are about 310,000 western gorillas and just above 1,000 eastern gorillas in the wild. Gorillas are listed as endangered by the IUCN which raises many questions of why are gorillas endangered. Some of these questions will be answered to help pinpoint the reasons why gorillas ended up in the“endangered” status. Factors leading to threatening their survival include humans, the environment and gorillas.
The prime danger to gorillas’ survival is human activity which is either intentional or accidental. The intentional activities involve a well-planned attack on gorillas’ lives, for instance poaching for wild meat(gorilla meat is so expensive and sold in black market), forest clearance for farming and hunting for the pet market in different countries. Gorillas are so protective of their young ones and will never let hunters take them easily without a fight. This leaves hunters with no options but to usually wipe out a whole group of adults just to take a couple of young gorillas.
The un-intentional or accidental activities include gorillas falling in snares meant for other species like antelopes that leave fatal injuries which in most cases end up leading tountimely death. Also farming practices like bush burning that destroy gorillas’ habitats or get some individuals in the fire during bush burning.
Leopards are the most recorded predator to the gorillas but mostly target juveniles or young gorillas. These cases are rare though as adult gorillas are overprotective of their young and no leopard or other predator is silly or brave enough to take on single handedly a mature gorilla.
Gorillas pose a threat to their own survival in a few ways for example their reproductive behavior. Gorillas have a longer period of gestation of approximately 8 to 9 months and only give birth to one baby every after 3 to 4 years makes their rate of population increase slower, which implies more deaths than reproduction, automatically endangering these species.
Furthermore, gorillas have less adaptation rate to new environments which makes most of them taken into captivity dying within little time and even also slight changes in their environments pose a great threat to their survival which calls for more conservation efforts of their natural habitats.
Since gorillas share almost similar DNA with humans, they can contract most of the diseases that attack human beings. For example, Ebola epidemic nearly wiped-outmost gorilla families in D.R. Congo.
Some of these factors coupled with their already small population on earth has led to the gorillas being classified as endangered on the IUCN list of threatened species.