Why Gorillas are an Endangered Species

Why Gorillas are an Endangered Species: Despite the fact that gorillas are highly sought after by tourists on a safari in Africa, they are some of the most endangered species in the world today according to the ICUN Red List.

Why Gorillas are an Endangered Species

Gorillas are categorized into two distinct species namely; the western gorillas and the eastern gorillas. Under the western gorilla, we have two gorilla subspecies which are; the western lowland gorilla and the cross river gorilla. There are also two subspecies of eastern gorillas and these include; the Mountain gorilla and the Eastern lowland gorilla, which is commonly known as Grauer’s gorilla. All four of these gorilla subspecies are either endangered or critically endangered according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Gorillas are actually quite social animals known to live in groups of 5 to 10 individuals. Each group led by a dominant male gorilla known as a Silverback. The main role of the Silverback gorilla is to lead the group into greener pastures with plenty of food to feed every member in the group, and also defend his group from both internal and external threats.

Reasons why gorillas are and endangered species.

There are several reasons as to why gorillas are an endangered species in the world today, and these include;

Hunting and Poaching: 

A great number of gorillas are being hunted down by poachers for a number of reasons such as for their bush meat, traditional medicine, hunting trophies and live animal trade on the black market. Hunting, poaching and the consumption of gorillas is illegal not only in Africa, but across the world as well.

  • Hunting/Poaching of Gorillas for Bush meat: Most gorillas in west and central Africa are killed for their bush meat, which has a high demand in western and central African countries. This trade in bush meat is by far the biggest threat to gorillas in Africa. It is a common belief in western and central African countries that the consumption of ape meat is a sign of prestige and wealth of a family or individual. In 2007, one silverback and three female mountain gorillas where killed by poachers in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Traditional Medicine, Hunting trophies and animal trade: Gorillas are an endangered species in Africa because they are being hunted down for traditional medicine, black market trade and as hunting trophies for the elite families. Quite a number of people seek out gorillas as pets/ trophies, and for their body parts which they believe can cure some diseases, and of course as magical charms. Such factors have greatly affected the lives of gorillas on the continent. 

Habitat Loss: 

It is a known fact that gorillas inhabit the tropical and subtropical rain forests of Africa. However, their habitat is under great threat as most of these forests are undergoing large scale deforestation and encroachment by locals. As the population of human beings continues to increase at a drastic rate, there is a high demand for land use. As a result, more people are cutting down trees in these forests for fire wood, charcoal burning, livestock grazing and agricultural cultivation. This has greatly affected the gorillas in terms of diet and living space.


Given that gorillas share about 98% of their DNA with human beings, this means that they are also prone to diseases that affect human beings. Diseases such as Ebola, Influenza, Cough, Tuberculosis and other air-borne diseases can affect the health of gorillas. Since 1990, the Ebola virus is said to have contributed to the large scale loss of gorillas in Africa. Since the outbreak of the disease, a large population of gorillas has been affected and killed by the disease. Between 2002 and 2003, about 95% of the 600 recorded gorillas in the northern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo were killed by the Ebola virus. In 1994, the Ebola outbreak in Minkébé in northern Gabon wiped out an entire population of gorillas and chimpanzees. This was the second largest protected area for gorillas and chimpanzees in the world. It is for this precise reason that visitors are encouraged not to track gorillas if you have a cold, flu or cough among other air-borne diseases.

Political Instabilities and Civil wars: 

Civil wars and political instabilities have claimed many lives of gorillas on the African Continent. Civil wars such as the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda as well as militia rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo have seen quite a number of gorillas being killed in cross fires between local defense forces and the rebel groups. However, gorilla trekking tours in Mgahinga national park and Bwindi Impenetrable national park in Uganda and Volcanoes national park in Rwanda, are considered totally safe and secure for visitors.

Lack of Awareness: 

Ignorance or rather lack of awareness of people on the importance of gorillas in the country and world at large, has contributed to the endangerment of these gorilla species. So many people in the world today, especially in the local communities living within and around these forests, are not educated enough on the economic and scientific contribution that gorillas make in the society and country in which they live.

What is being done to prevent the threats against the lives of gorillas?

Both local governments and international wildlife conservation organizations such as World Wide Fund and IUCN among others have joined forces to combat the threats endangering the lives of gorillas in their natural habitats. Some of the measures that have been implemented include;

  • Increasing the support for gorilla conservation among both the local and international communities through joint collaborations between the local governments and wildlife conservation organizations.
  • Improving the security of protected areas in which gorillas live by employing more security personnel such as park rangers.
  • Stopping the illegal trade in gorilla products or body parts by funding and heavily equipping anti-poaching units in the national parks and protected areas.

What you can do to prevent threats against gorillas?

As tourists, you also play a very important role in protecting the endangered species of gorillas in the world to today. Visitors can help prevent the threats against endangered gorilla populations through the following activities;

  • Visit gorillas in Africa: Tourists who get to trek gorillas in Africa contribute a lot financially to the well-being of these endangered species. Most of the money collected from gorilla trekking activities is used to treat gorillas when they fall ill or a hurt, pay park wardens and rangers, as well as pay gorilla doctors. Also, this revenue earned from gorilla trekking activities is evenly distributed among the communities living near gorilla protected areas.
  • Buy sustainable wood: Buying FSC-certified forest products like timber helps in reinforcing the practice of sustainability and limit illegal logging in forests where the gorillas leave.
  • As a tourist, you can also make a contribution to any wildlife conservation organization that is looking after gorillas. Such financial contributions, however small they may be, help in the smooth running of conservation programs of most gorilla conservation organizations.
  • Visitors can also make a positive contribution to the lives of gorillas by adhering to the rules and regulations of trekking gorillas in specific gorilla destinations i.e. you should not trek gorillas if you have any viral illnesses such as cough, flu, tuberculosis or Ebola.
  • Adopt a gorilla: By adopting a gorilla, visitors can make a monthly or yearly financial contribution to a specific gorilla or even more depending on how many gorillas you wish to adopt. The money that is contributed to the gorilla is used to look after its health among other issues.

Top Gorilla Trekking Destinations in the World?

Gorilla Trekking safaris in Africa offer visitors a unique wildlife experience with top gorilla trekking destinations in the world located in countries like Uganda, Rwanda and the  Democratic Republic of Congo. These also happen to be the only countries in the world where you will be able to see the rare mountain gorillas.

Other gorilla subspecies like the western lowland gorillas and cross-river gorillas can also be found in; Central African Republic, Angola, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Congo Brazzaville, and Cameroon. 

Where to Track Mountain Gorillas in Central and East Africa?

In Uganda, trekking mountain gorillas can be done from Bwindi Impenetrable national park and Mgahinga Gorilla national park. If you are visiting Rwanda, you can track mountain gorillas in Volcanoes national park. Lastly, gorilla trekking in Congo can be done in Virunga national park and Kahuzi-Biega national Park.

Cost of Gorilla Trekking in Central and East Africa.

A gorilla trekking permit in Uganda costs USD 700 dollars for foreign non-residents and USD 600 dollars per person for foreign residents and UGX 250,000 for East African Citizens. However, due to the Coronavirus pandemic that has destabilized the tourism industry worldwide, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has unveiled its seasonal promotional discount for gorilla trekking activities in the country. Visitors booking for a gorilla trekking permit between 1st December 2020 and 31st March 2021 will pay USD 400 and USD 300 dollars for foreign non-residents and foreign residents respectively. East African Citizens will pay UGX 150,000 for gorilla trekking permit for booking made within the same period.

In Rwanda, a gorilla trekking permit costs USD 1500 dollars for both foreign residents and foreign non-residents. However, the country is offering a discount of USD 500 dollars for foreigners booking gorilla trekking permits in Rwanda between now and 31st December 2020.

Gorilla trekking permits in DR Congo cost USD 400 dollars for foreigners and USD 200 for Congolese citizens. 

Conclusion: Gorillas are an endangered species which must be protected at all costs. Everyone has a role to play in the conservation of these wildlife species; either by physically taking part in gorilla conservation projects or making a generous donation towards gorilla conservation efforts.

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