Why are mountain gorillas endangered? What are the threats that they face? Mountain gorillas are a subspecies of eastern gorillas. They reside in the Virunga Massif, straddling across Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Gorillas were almost becoming extinct in the 19th century but the conservation efforts removed its status from the IUCN’s red list of endangered species of primates.
Apparently, there are slightly more than 1000 mountain gorillas left in the world. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a gorilla park situated in southwestern Uganda accounts for half of this population. This makes it the best place to see mountain gorillas in Africa.
About 17% of mountain gorillas are protected. The other percentage is left in the wild facing various challenges. The most common predators of mountain gorillas are humans. Poachers kill mountain gorillas for several purposes among bushmeat. Leopards also enjoy eating gorilla meat but it’s not common for them to catch mountain gorillas. Gorillas are also highly threatened by diseases such as Ebola. They also have a very low birth rate, so any deaths can easily affect the entire population. Below are some of the reasons why mountain gorillas are endangered and the threats they face as well.
Mountain Gorilla Threats
Human encroachment to the gorilla habitat like settlement, farming, deforestation, agriculture, and building of industries has forced mountain gorillas to move to higher elevations. The weather conditions at such elevations can’t favor, them leading to sickness like pneumonia. They can hardly survive in places with extremely high elevations. They become more prone to falling sick.
Mountain gorillas are vulnerable to human diseases like flu, scabies, pneumonia and more. The more people come into contact with mountain gorillas, the higher their chances of contracting diseases. This is partly why you are told to keep an 8-meter distance when you locate gorillas during your gorilla trekking experience. These primates do not have the necessary immunities to fight diseases when they get exposed. When one falls sick, it can affect large populations. Ebola is one of the common diseases that attack mountain gorillas.
Mountain gorillas are sometimes mistakenly poached when they get caught in traps set for other animals like small antelopes and bushbucks. Gorillas have also been caught as trophies but they cannot survive in captivity. They can only survive in elevated places. See these main reasons for gorilla poaching.
Pet trade is one of the reasons why mountain gorillas are being poached. Foreigners give locals a lot of money to capture mountain gorillas, which they in turn use as pets in their homes or private animal zoos. They forget these species of gorillas cannot survive under such conditions.
Some folks enjoy eating gorilla meat and think it’s prestigious. The high demands for bushmeat in the market have led to the killing of mountain gorillas. Militia groups also eat gorilla meat for survival especially during times when they cannot access food easily.
Traditional healers and magicians believe that some parts of mountain gorillas can be used for charm. They kill mountain gorillas just to get some of their body parts and in turn, give them to clients. However, there has never been any proof of such body parts working effectively as a charm.
Oil and gas exploration
European oil and gas companies have been granted concessions in Virunga National Park in Congo. The development of mining industries in the park is likely to affect mountain gorilla security and will pave a wider way for poachers to get in the park. Virunga is one of the only four national parks in the entire world that shelter mountain gorillas.
Political and civil unrest
Political unrest; especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been a threat to the mountain gorilla population for a very long time. Despite refugees leaving the park in the 1990s, their presence led to the killing of more mountain gorillas for meat purposes. The few people who have tasted gorilla meat claim its too tasty. Gorilla meat is white meat.