With hunting, disease, poor reproductive rates and habitat loss all posing a significant threat to the gorilla species, what is being done to protect them from the very real possibility of extinction?
According to the charity Save a Gorilla, the mountain gorillas that inhabit the mountains of East Central Africa are the most endangered sub-species. There are less than 700 left and they all live in the wild, as the species simply cannot survive in captivity. This means their conservation is extremely important, not only for their own welfare but also for the rainforest in general. Mountain gorillas are categorised as an ‘umbrella species’, meaning that their conservation also benefits a number of other species within the area.
There are a number of governmental and international policies in place to maintain the conservation of the mountain gorilla. On an immediate level, these include the employment of forest rangers to protect gorillas from poachers and both emergency and preventative veterinary care for the gorillas.
The scheme also rolls out into the nearby communities through educational initiatives for the locals and eco-tourism, such as safaris with specialists such as http://www.steppestravel.co.uk. Eco-tourism helps to fund the conservation process and create job opportunities in the local area, with experts believing that putting money back into the community will reduce poverty and the consequent need for poaching.
While much of the focus is on mountain gorillas – by far the most endangered species – there are also measures in place to protect the western lowland gorillas of Central Africa. Despite having much higher numbers than their mountain-dwelling counterparts, a vast number were recently wiped out by the Ebola virus. World Wildlife estimates the disease could have killed as many as one-third of the wild gorilla population; in addition, commercial hunting continues to be a threat.
There are conservation practices in place to protect these animals, although these are more focused on researching and monitoring their health, habitat and population dynamic through a gorilla trekking guide. Once again, eco-tourism serves as a way to continue funding these initiatives.
There are many threats to the gorilla species as a whole; however, with the correct law enforcement and social/economic conditions of those living near these animals, there is a fighting chance that they can remain protected.