The survival of Gorillas as a species is endangered because of humans. Vast areas of their natural habitat continue to be destroyed as African states try to fast-track economic development by stripping natural resources. Huge areas of forest have been lost to this for timber, farm-land and road building.
Illegal poaching is also difficult to control, even in protected zones policed by the government. Hunting for the bush-meat trade, and for trophy kills, continues to take a toll on gorilla populations. There have been many horrific cases of troops of gorillas being murdered for ‘sport’ or for meat. Gorillas have even been known to be captured and smuggled for the black-market pet trade!
These problems are exacerbated by political unrest and civil conflict across states such as Rwanda, Congo, and Uganda. This pushes refugees and covert militia into the Gorilla’s habitat. Sometimes war and fighting spill over into gorilla habitats.
Increased exposure to humans has also had a devastating effect as gorillas become exposed to diseases that they have no defense or immunity against. For example, in 2004, several hundred Gorillas died from an outbreak of the Ebola virus in a protected area of the National Park of Congo. This was as a result of direct consequence of contact with humans.
Mountain gorillas live only in Virunga massifs across the border areas of Rwanda, Uganda, and DRC and in the Bwindi impenetrable forest national park Uganda. As of today, they are the only great apes whose population is growing standing at 880 individuals. Thanks to conservation efforts.
For that reason gorillas are prime tourist attractions, It’s no surprise that many travels to Africa for mountain gorilla trekking particularly Bwindi impenetrable forest national park connecting to volcanoes national Rwanda and Virunga national park in DRC.
The most critical achievement of the 21st century on record is the conservation of mountain gorillas that were poached to the brink of extinction over the last 50 years, their numbers were below 500 individuals in the Virungas from the 1960’s to 1980’s.
Conservationists intend for this to be the most extreme conservation in the history of African ape conservation. In order to put these new conservation strategies for the survival of mountain gorillas into proper context, we must first briefly examine the major historical events that nearly led to extinction of mountain gorillas.
Threats to Gorilla Conservation
All species of gorillas are considered to be critically endangered by the International Union of Conservation for Nature. They have serious threats that have led to their drastic decrease in their population and these are some of them:
Due to logging and agriculture activities carried around the forest areas where the gorillas live has led to the destruction of the fragile habitats. Around 80% of the gorillas stay in unprotected areas meaning that these are exposed to being victims of human activities that take place like road construction, industry establishment and also settlement. As the forests are cleared these gorillas are left homeless and foodless and eventually they die.
Bush meat trade
Gorillas are hunted down for meat in some fractions of Africa. These animals are gunned down and taken to various restaurants. Mostly the western gorillas have been caught for meat most especially in Congo, Nigeria and Cameroon. Also sometimes the snare meant for other animals trap the gorillas and these are hunt helplessly.
Gorillas have been drastically affected by diseases and this is one of reasons as to why the gorillas have had a great decline in the recent decades. Recent researched have found out that a parasite of plasmodium that is found in mosquitoes has greatly infected millions of gorillas in the past with malaria which also affects humans. There is also a lethal Ebola virus which has claimed thousands of lives of gorillas in the recent decade in central and west Africa.
This is one of the main threats of gorilla extinction as the gorillas have been killed unknowingly through gunshots being exchanged by the governments and the rebels that hidden in the forests where the gorillas are found. Many gorillas have been killed in the DR. Congo due to the political unrests that are taking place and also the refugees to these political instabilities have been settling these areas where the gorillas inhabit.
The gorillas have also been hunted down for ostentation as their skulls, hands, feet, skins and other body parts are taken to act as souvenirs by some people in the western world. They are also used as medicine by some people.