GORILLAS

GORILLA GORILLA (Western gorilla); GORILLA BERENGEI (Eastern gorilla)

The largest of the great apes, the gorilla is thought to have shared a common ancestor with humans about 10 million years ago and, today, shares approximately 98% of its DNA with humans.

A typical family group is composed of one dominant mature male – the ‘silverback’ - and several adult females and their young. An average group size is about 5 to 10 individuals, although 50 or more is not unheard of.  

Once mature, males and females disperse from the group they were born in to avoid inbreeding. Males may go through a non-breeding solitary period for a few months or years, eventually attracting females and beginning a new family group. The strongest social bonds in gorilla groups are male-female. Females and males groom each other to reinforce their bond, and adult males will protect females and their offspring from predators and stronger males who might attack and kill young. 

Gorillas have a range of vocalizations for communication; grunts, whimpers, barks, whines, chuckles, and belches are just a few examples. The belch noise is a soft contact call used when individuals are out of visual contact, and excited gorillas may bark, hoot, roar, or scream. Male displays, which use a combination of these calls, also involve charging, strutting and throwing vegetation.  Both male and female gorillas laugh when they play.

Gorillas have low reproduction rates, with females only giving birth every four to six years after a gestation period of eight to nine months. Declines in number are therefore of conservation concern, as it can take a long time for populations to rebound. 

*International Union for Conservation of Nature is the world’s main authority on the conservation status of species.

  • IUCN* STATUS

    Eastern and Western gorillas are Critically Endangered

  • POPULATION

    Eastern gorilla >5,000 (2007) / Western gorilla estimated to be about 100,000 individuals ⬇️

  • DIET

    Omnivorous – pith, shoots, leaves, fruits, herbs, bark, roots, bamboo, seeds, and invertebrates like ants, larvae, and worms

  • HABITAT

    Closed forest including lowland, bamboo, and swamp forest; sub-montane and montane forest

  • LOCATION

    Eastern gorilla occurs in the forest of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), northwest Rwanda and southwest Uganda. Western gorilla is found in Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Nigeria, and Republic of Congo

ISSUES

Both Eastern and Western gorillas are highly threatened by illegal poaching for the bushmeat trade, and for use of their body parts in medicines and magical charms. 

Habitat loss and degradation due to deforestation and agricultural expansion also threaten gorillas by fragmenting their populations. 

Highly infectious diseases like the Ebola virus also pose critical threats to gorillas.  A 2006 paper in Science implicated Ebola as the killer of over 5000 gorillas in Lossi Sanctuary, northwest Republic of Congo.  
 

OUR WORK

Born Free has funded and supported the protection and conservation of gorillas in the wild for many years through projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

We also campaign against the exploitation of gorillas in captivity.

WE RAISE FUNDS TO SUPPORT . . .

 

 

FIELD CONSERVATION

Our work, in partnership with the Humane Society International (Australia), to research and monitor Kahuzi-Biega National Park in DRC, which protects the endangered eastern lowland gorilla.

GORILLA CONSERVATION

 

 

RESCUE & CARE

Rescue, care and release of gorillas through the Limbe Wildlife Centre in Cameroon.

LIMBE WILDLIFE CENTRE

 


WILDLIFE TRADE & POLICY

Our campaign against the illegal trade in bushmeat from apes and other threatened species, and in the live trade in infant apes, which is exacerbated by logging and other commercial ventures that increase access to forest.

The work of Last Great Ape Organisation (LAGO) and Eco Activists for Governance and Law Enforcement (EAGLE) networks, which focus on the enforcement of national legislation to protect and preserve wildlife in a number of central and west African countries.

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