Are gorillas in danger of extinction?

Currently, there are approximately 7.7 million species of animals around the world. Of all these species, a total of 20% are endangered animals.

Focusing on gorillas, they are the third most human-like group of primates. In them you can recognize advanced intelligence, extraordinary use of tools and unique behaviors. Unfortunately their communities are declining year after year, but are gorillas in danger of extinction? 

Gorillas are in danger of extinction or not?

We can classify gorillas into western gorillas of the species Gorilla gorilla and eastern gorillas Gorilla beringei . They are classified this way because they inhabit opposite areas within the African continent. To begin, we are going to review the situation of the eastern gorillas.

Gorilla beringei

The eastern gorilla is found in eastern Africa: in the Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda. In particular, they inhabit high areas and the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) [1] has classified them as endangered species.

One of the main causes of their disappearance is the proximity to areas of armed conflict where they are victims of crossfire . In addition, they are hunted as the only food option . These conflicts have also generated violence with those in charge of the conservation sites.

Two subspecies make up the Gorilla beringei group and, given that they are located in different areas, each one has particular characteristics that we will see now.

  • Mountain Gorillas: the Gorilla beringei beringei, or better known as mountain gorillas, only two populations live isolated in the mountains. Due to the increase in cultivated fields, they have been imprisoned by their environment. This gorilla has suffered deaths from diseases, especially respiratory diseases, from tourists, researchers and veterinarians who visit them. Being genetically related to humans, they are susceptible to the same diseases. Today they are classified as an endangered speciesby the IUCN Red List. When in doubt about how many mountain gorillas are left in the world, the last census showed that there are currently only approximately 1,004 mountain gorillas in the world [2] . Another cause that explains why gorillas are in danger of extinction is the occupation of the Virunga park by armed rebels, where there are also plans to extract oil, putting at risk the few conservation areas they have.
  • Grauer ‘s gorilla: the eastern lowland gorilla are at a higher level than the mountain gorillas in the Red List of IUCN: are critically endangered because of the severe fragmentation of their habitat and the trend in decreasing their population. It was recorded that in a single generation their individuals were reduced by 77%, a loss three times greater than that required to classify as critically endangered [1] . Its greatest threat is hunting for human consumption.

Gorilla gorilla

The western gorilla has a wider distribution and with more specimens than the eastern one, inhabiting the entire west of the African continent. Despite this, its population is decreasing, and the two subspecies it contains are classified by the IUCN Red List as critically endangered species [3] . It lives in lowlands and is small in size, unlike the eastern gorilla which prefers to live in trees and is larger. It has two subspecies differentiated by their location:

  • Gorilla gorilla gorilla : The lowland gorilla has a distinct decline in its sexually mature individuals, so there is not much hope for new generations. Its annual loss is 2.7% and it is currently in critical danger of extinction [4]. One of the main causes of its loss is disease, especially the Ebola virus that has attacked several national parks and gorilla sanctuaries. Between 1995 and 2000, three-quarters of gorillas died in protection zones. To this day, the virus still lurks. Another reason is the creation of new fields for palm oil, since much of the gorilla’s habitat satisfies the needs for this crop. In this way, their communities are in danger from the overwhelming industry.
  • Cross river gorilla Gorilla gorilla diehli resides in Nigera and Cameroon, with severely fragmented populations and very small sizes, which is why it is in severe danger of extinction [5] . Their genetic deterioration is given by the inbreeding that predominates in their communities, since they are very small. They tend to be flexible when it comes to forming their groups, mainly due to habitat and hunting restrictions. It also occurs due to the seasonality that is generated by the Coss River, the habitat of this gorilla. Near this area is one of the densest populations in Africa, exerting pressure in addition to bordering them on possible infections.

Although the different subspecies of gorillas have particular causes that put them in danger of extinction, there are other causes that are common throughout the Gorilla genus and that we will detail below.

  • Gorilla hunting: Before the 90s, jungles used to be thickly covered. As global development increased, roads were opened in the jungles to facilitate access to mining and resource extraction, allowing poachers to more easily locate the demanded gorilla meat.
  • Direct pressure on their habitats: global development generates a depletion of resilience capacity in the face of natural disasters.
  • Inconsistency in compliance with the law: resulting from political instability. The war has strongly affected this species.

What measures are being taken so that the mountain gorilla does not become extinct

These are the main measures that have been taken so that mountain gorillas do not become extinct:

  • The hunting, trade or capture of gorillas are illegal practices internationally , appearing within the appendix of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) which helps to avoid unnatural losses.
  • Added to this there are protected areas of great importance for conservation, such as the Bwindi National Park where the mountain gorilla lives.
  • International initiatives , such as the International Gorilla Conservation Program, have been created to work with communities and governments to protect the mountain gorilla and thus promote responsible tourism. This is the only great ape species with increasing populations.

Among the actions necessary to save gorillas is the protection of their habitats and their restoration , through legal enforcement at the national and international level. These actions refer to governments, but at the individual level we can help gorillas today by modifying some of our habits.

It is advisable to avoid products with palm oil, present in almost all chocolates, as well as to buy only woods of known and certified origin. In this way you will be reducing the demand for these resources that cause the displacement of gorillas. Here you can learn more about why palm oil is so bad .

On the other hand, you can make your acquaintances aware of the dangers of the destruction of ecosystems. Let’s not minimize the value of education, because from it better decisions can be made that benefit not only our closest environment, but also the entire planet.

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