Species (Gorilla gorilla)
the western lowland gorilla and the Cross River gorilla are threatened
by bushmeat hunting and habitat loss. In the Congo basin these threats
are particularly due to commercial logging, which accelerates habitat
loss and increases access to remote
areas, facilitating hunting (Wilkie et al 2000). Western lowland
gorillas have also been significantly impacted by a series of Ebola
outbreaks in recent years. These outbreaks may have reduced the
gorilla population by as much as 90% in some areas and are estimated
to have reduced the entire Gabon population by 50% (Walsh 2003).
River gorillas have, to date, not been affected by the Ebola epidemic.
However, intense hunting over many years has lead to a small and
fragmented population of
gorillas. The current concentration of the Cross River gorillas
in rugged highland areas is likely a direct result of hunting pressure,
as these areas are extremely difficult for
hunters to access. The small size and potential fragmentation of
the population could potentially expose the gorillas to inbreeding,
which would have serious negative consequences for the long-term
survival of these animals.
a result of the above threats, The
World Conservation Union (IUCN) classifies both western lowland
gorillas and Cross River gorillas as Critically Endangered. The
Cross River gorillas are the most endangered ape in Africa.
response to the threats faced by these gorillas, conservationists
from around the
world have recently produced action plans for the conservation of
both western lowland gorillas (Tutin et al., 2005) and Cross River
gorillas (Oates et al., 2007). These plans provide specific strategies
for addressing the many challenges to the continued
survival of western gorillas. Examples of these strategies include
building capacity in national organizations to allow enforcement
of existing wildlife laws, developing
alternative livelihood strategies for those who depend on hunting
or forest products, purchasing or leasing land for conservation,
ecotourism, continued conservation-relevant research, and implementation
of controls to halt the spread of Ebola. Copies of the
action plans are available from:
by Richard Bergl, Ph.D.
and Umande, G.g. gorilla,
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (photo by Dave Liggett)
Species (Gorilla beringei)
recent increases in numbers, both mountain gorilla populations
face serious threats to their survival from habitat loss for
agriculture and extraction of resources (cattle grazing, firewood
collection, poaching for smaller animals; Mehlman 2007). In
addition, poaching, a serious problem in the 1960s and 1970s,
has again become of considerable concern. In 2007 alone, 10
mountain gorillas were killed in the Democratic Republic of
Congo. A final threat is disease. Both populations live in some
of the highest human densities found in Africa, and there are
no buffer zones between human settlements and park boundaries.
As a result, gorillas are susceptible to diseases transmitted
by local populations and their livestock. In addition, both
populations are visited daily by tourists, which represent another
potential method of disease cross transmission (MGVP, Inc. &
gorillas are threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation
for agricultural expansion. In addition, mining for gold,
diamonds, and ores such as coltan and cassiterite (used in
small electronics like cell phones) has a considerable impact
on gorilla habitat as mining practices result in both direct
and indirect environmental damage through forest clearance,
stream pollution, erosion, firewood cutting, tree debarking
(panning trays), liana cutting, disturbance to freshwater
ecology, and bushmeat hunting (Mehlman, 2007).
programs are widespread throughout the eastern gorilla range.
In addition to the work of the national parks services of
the three habitat countries (Rwanda
Office of Tourisme and National Parks (ORTPN); Uganda
Wildlife Authority, and Institut
Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN), Democratic
Republic of Congo), a host of NGOs are involved in conservation
activities including research, anti-poaching patrols, and
support programs for local communities which include education,
health and microfinance initiatives. In addition, the funds
generated by ecotourism programs contribute significantly
towards the protection of the gorillas and their habitats.
- Text by Tara S. Stoinski, Ph.D.
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Study. New York: Springer, pp. 3-54.
Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP, Inc.) & Wildlife Conservation
Society (WCS). 2007. Conservation medicine for gorilla conservation.
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L. 2007. Regional Action Plan for the Conservation of the Cross
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