Threats to Gorilla Survival and Conservation

All types of gorillas in Africa are endangered, primarily due to human activity such as poaching, disease transmission, and habitat destruction.

Ultimately, human poverty is the greatest threat to gorillas. They live in countries in Africa with some of the highest population densities and lowest adult life spans, literacy rates, and standards of living in the world.  The challenges that such intense poverty brings to gorilla conservation vary depending on where in Africa the gorillas live.  Western gorillas, which inhabit 11 west African countries from Nigeria to Angola, are primarily threatened by illegal hunting for food, habitat loss from logging, and disease — specifically the Ebola virus, which has a roughly 95% mortality rate in gorillas.  Eastern gorillas, found only in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are primarily threatened by habitat loss when their forests are converted to farmland and pasture; local civil unrest; poachers’ snares set for other animals such as antelopes; respiratory and other diseases probably transmitted by humans; and poaching for the gorilla infant trade.

Most populations of gorillas and other great apes are decreasing at a rapid, unsustainable rate. The only type of gorilla that is known to be increasing is the mountain gorilla, due to the intense conservation efforts of the Fossey Fund, local park authorities, and other partners.  Between 1989 and 2003 the Virunga mountain gorilla population increased by 17 percent. By 2010, the population had grown by another 26.3 percent. A new mountain gorilla census is scheduled for 2015.

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