What are the biggest threats facing gorillas?

Most of the gorilla subspecies are critically endangered facing a risk of extinction in the near future if drastic measures are not taken to save from the many threats they are facing. The steady increase in the number of mountain gorillas which live in the Virunga Mountain Ranges of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, and Uganda in the past few decades made this subspecies to move from critically endangered to the endangered category according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, the other 3 gorilla subspecies are still critically endangered. These include the eastern lowland gorilla found in the lowland forests of eastern DR Congo, the western lowland gorilla found in lowland forests of central and western Africa and the cross-river gorilla living along the Cross River along the border of Nigeria and Cameroon.

The success in increasing the number of mountain gorillas unlike other gorilla subspecies can be attributed to the incredible conservation work done by the respective wildlife agencies from the 3 countries where these great apes are found. Their effort has also been complimented by the work done by non-government conservation organization bodies to protect these animals for example the Dian Fossey Fund which focuses on protecting gorillas in Rwanda and DR Congo while carrying out research on the same species. Over the past 4 decades, the number of mountain gorillas has risen from just about 250 individuals to 1,064 living in the wild today thanks to the combined conservation efforts from the several stakeholders.

However, despite the conservation efforts to protect mountain gorillas and ensure that they continue to thrive in the wild, they still face several challenges threatening their lives and this gets even worse when it comes to other gorilla subspecies with less care.

Here are some of the major threats facing gorillas in the wild today

Poaching

There is both direct and indirect poaching going on in the gorilla habitats with gorillas killed every year by humans either intentionally or while trying to snare other animals. Gorillas are poached primarily for consumption or bush meat trade while others are killed for body parts. Infant gorillas are also hunted for pet trade which is illegal.

Habitat loss

Habitat loss affects many animal species including gorillas. Their native forests are destroyed every year by humans for activities like settlement, farming, among others. Such activities have led to forest fragmentations which have resulted into isolated animal populations leading to additional issues like inbreeding. The poachers also pounce on this to escalate bushmeat trade as they use the opened up roads to penetrate the previously inaccessible areas transport the products easily.

Climate change

Like to humans, climate change affects gorillas too! The gorilla food supply is affected by the changes in rainfall patterns and temperatures. This is because thermal tress leads to forest fires which destroy their habitat and lead to the emergency of new diseases which may be deadly to gorillas. The diverse effects of climate change on humans living near gorillas also force them to put more pressure on gorillas themselves. Humans tend to turn to forests as a source of food and water as the supply of these resources gets affected during a drought which affects crop yields and water supply.

Mining

Mining has mostly affected the endangered Grauer’s gorillas which have lost almost 80% of their population in the past 20 years. This is because mining paves way for poaching after the extraction some rare earth minerals like coltan in gorilla habitats which is used in making electronic devices like cellphones and laptops. Gorilla conservationists advise that in order to help lessen the mining of coltan in gorilla habitats, we should always try to recycle our old devices.