The closest animal to humans; the gorilla population in Africa is facing many threats to survival. Find out why mountain gorillas are critically endangered and what we can all do to help save this precious species…
With just over 1000 mountain gorillas left in the wild, conservation is imperative. Combined efforts have led to a slow increase after a rapid decline in previous years.
Mountain gorillas are the largest of the living primates, measuring between 4 and 6 feet and weighing roughly 135 – 220kg. They have muscular arms, a broad chest, and large hands and feet. Their thick black hair keeps them warm and provides insulation.
Mountain gorillas live on the green, volcanic slopes of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo; spread across four national parks – Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (Uganda), Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (Uganda), Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda), and Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of Congo).
They are extremely sociable and live in large groups of up to 40, led by the dominant male known as the ‘silverback’; characterised by the patch of silver hair on his back. Known as troops, groups of gorillas comprise of the silverback as well as several other young males, some females, and their offspring.
One of the main threats facing mountain gorillas, and gorillas in general is humans. Not surprisingly, trophy hunting and poaching in the 60s and 70s contributed significantly to the rapid population decline. Poaching continues to be a real threat with infant gorillas being captured for the live animal trade.
The current prominent threat to the mountain gorilla population is habitat loss due to the increasing human population. Forest clearance and degradation, for agricultural purposes has significantly cut down the natural habitat of the gorillas. Furthermore, competition for limited natural resources such as firewood has left less space for mountain gorillas to live in peace.
Because humans share so much DNA with gorillas, they are highly susceptible to many of the same diseases. Unlike humans, gorillas haven’t developed the necessary immunities against illness. Thus, first time exposure to a disease or virus harmless to humans could potentially wipe out an entire population.
Many initiatives have been put in place to increase the mountain gorilla population; and it has been working as the population is slowly increasing. However, they continue to face major threats from habitat loss and poaching.
The Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust (VSPT), established in 2009, is a non-profit organisation connecting Volcanoes’ Rwanda and Uganda luxury lodges with the neighbouring communities to promote conservation.
The VSPT work with local communities to create long-term, self-sustaining projects improving the livelihoods of local communities whilst promoting the conservation of gorillas. VSPT help to restore natural habitats and work with communities and institutions to reduce human-wildlife conflict.
VSPT believe that ensuring the survival of the mountain gorilla begins with helping the people that live near them. If local communities can sustain themselves without further deforestation for agriculture, the population of mountain gorillas should continue to increase.
The VSPT receives funding from guest and private donations as well as Volcanoes Safaris themselves, who contribute $100 from each safari booking. If you want to get involved with VSPT, visit their website to find out more.