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 are found only in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and are not generally hunted for food like their western counterparts. They 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.

It is currently estimated that 120,000 western gorillas and 6,000 to 26,000 eastern gorillas remain on the planet.  Most populations of gorillas and other great apes are decreasing at a rapid, unsustainable rate —“catastrophic decline” is the term used by many conservationists.  The only type of gorilla that is known to be increasing is the mountain gorilla.  Between 1989 and 2003 the Virunga mountain gorilla population increased by 17 percent. This is astounding, particularly given that civil wars occurred in both Rwanda and Congo during portions of this time period. By 2010, the population had grown by another 26.3 percent. These increases are attributed to the intense conservation efforts of the national park authorities in Rwanda, Congo and Uganda as well as the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International and its partners.  To learn more about how the Fossey Fund is tackling each threat to gorilla survival, read about each of our programs because 100 percent of our focus is to save gorillas.

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