Gorillas are large, powerful apes that share much of our DNA. But did you know that they face many threats in the wild? Some of them are even considered critically endangered and face the possibility of extinction. With this in mind, you may be wondering: how many gorillas are left in the world? Why are they endangered, and what threats do they face? Keep reading as we answer these questions and more.
What You'll Learn Today
How Many Gorillas Are Left in the World?
There are four subspecies of gorilla, all of which are found in the wild in different parts of Africa. Some are found in mountainous regions, others deep inside dense rainforests, and still others in various lowland habitats.
All four subspecies are considered endangered or critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Let’s take a closer look at each subspecies and their approximate numbers, as reported by the conservation non-profit Berggorilla and Regenwald.
- Western lowland gorillas: These are the most widespread gorilla subspecies, found throughout a wide region between Cameroon and the Congo in Africa. Often found living in swamps and rainforests, there are estimated to be about 320,000 western lowland gorillas left in the wild.
- Grauer’s gorillas: Also known as eastern lowland gorillas, these are the second most populous of the gorilla subspecies. There are thought to be about 6,800 Grauer’s gorillas left in the wild, and they are found exclusively in the eastern rainforests of the Republic of Congo.
- Mountain gorillas: Mountain gorillas, as the name implies, live in the Bwindi Forest as well as parts of the Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda. There are thought to be just over 1,000 mountain gorillas left in the wild.
- Cross river gorillas: Cross river gorillas, found along the border of Cameroon and Nigeria, are the most critically endangered gorilla subspecies. Their numbers are estimated to be around 250 to 300.
It’s worth noting that these numbers are only estimates because it’s extremely difficult to count gorillas directly–they are extremely shy. Instead, numbers are approximated when researchers walk along predetermined courses in gorilla territory and count all the nests they can see.
Regardless, it is clear that wild gorilla populations have declined at an alarming rate.
Why Are Gorillas Endangered?
You may be wondering: how did gorillas get to this point? Why are there so few of them left in the wild?
There are many factors, of course, and some factors affect certain subspecies more than others. Let’s take a closer look at these factors.
- Habitat loss: Logging and deforestation affect many species of animals throughout the world, and gorillas are no exception. Much of their natural habitat has been removed to make way for mines, plantations, and human settlements.
Specifically, the cross river gorilla lost 59 percent of its habitat in just 15 years, between 1995 and 2010.
- Poaching: It is illegal to hunt and kill gorillas, but there are still many people who do. Some kill the parents in order to sell the babies in the illegal pet trade, while others kill them for meat or because they need the money to survive.
- Disease: Gorillas share more than 95 percent of our DNA, so they are prone to contracting deadly human diseases such as malaria and HIV. One of the biggest disease-related threats they face is ebola, which kills up to 95 percent of gorillas who contract it.
- Reproduction rate: Gorillas reproduce slowly; though this is not directly to blame for their declining numbers, it is a major factor in why they struggle to recover from these declines. It is thought that, even if all the threats to their population were suddenly removed, it would still take as long as 75 years for them to recover from their current endangered status.
To learn more about gorilla endangerment, check out the video below:
Are Gorillas Going Extinct?
Gorillas are certainly in danger of going extinct, especially the cross river gorillas. With so few left in the wild and the many threats they face, their outlook is not good.
That said, there are many efforts being made to save gorillas and increase their populations.
One such effort is the Great Ape Survival Project, a collaboration between the United Nations Environment Programme and UNESCO. Another effort is the Gorilla Conservation Agreement, which became the first international law to specifically target gorillas and their conservation needs.
Through these efforts, conservationists hope to prevent gorillas from facing extinction and help them rebuild their populations in the wild.
There are several subspecies of gorilla found in different parts of Africa, and all of them are considered endangered or critically endangered. Though there are less than 330,000 gorillas left and their numbers continue to fall, many international efforts are being made to protect them and keep these impressive apes from going extinct.