Species: Eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei)
Status: Endangered (EN)
Interesting Fact: The eastern gorilla is divided into two subspecies, the eastern lowland or Grauer’s gorilla, and the mountain gorilla.
Together with the western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla), the eastern gorilla is the largest of the living apes. Gorillas have characteristically robust, heavy bodies and dark, shaggy coats, and males are much larger than females. The eastern gorilla lives in stable family groups, led by a dominant ‘silverback’ male, and females in the group give birth around once every three to four years. The eastern lowland gorilla is found in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the mountain gorilla in two isolated populations in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The eastern gorilla faces a range of threats, including snares set for other wildlife, as well as deliberate poaching for bushmeat or to take infants as pets. This species is also surrounded by rapidly increasing human populations, and habitat destruction, illegal cattle grazing and timber extraction are also serious problems, as is political unrest in some areas. Fortunately, the eastern gorilla occurs largely in protected areas and a number of conservation programmes are underway to protect it. Mountain gorillas have been studied for decades, and in some places are protected by armed guards. Visits by tourists pose a risk of disease transmission to the gorillas, but these charismatic primates are recognised as an important source of tourist revenue, which may help to protect them.
Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author