Why are mountain gorillas one of the critically endangered wildlife in the face of the earth? Do you ever ask yourself this question? Mountain gorillas are sub-species of the Eastern gorillas and are sheltered within Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Virunga Conservation area comprising of Mgahinga National Park of Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
One of the reasons why these primates are critically endangered is because of their low population. Did you know that there are about 1000 mountain gorillas in the whole World? The population of western lowland and eastern lowland gorillas stand at around 100,000 and 5000 individuals respectively in the wild.
Not only that, these Giant Apes are faced with numerous threats with the common ones being Diseases. The fact that they are 98% related to humans makes them susceptible to human diseases especially respiratory diseases such as Tuberculosis, cough and flue/influenza, measles and Ebola. The fact that these primates live in families, the diseases can tremendously affect them and worse even wipe out the entire family. This is the reason as to why gorilla treks are strictly regulated in order to avoid human spread of diseases.
Mountain gorillas are also affected by habitat loss. These primates only inhabit forested areas of high elevations that experience low temperatures. They are herbivores that mainly depend of plant leaves, thistle, bamboo shoots and wild celery yet local communities encroach their habitats for forest products such as firewood and timber. Not only that, the fact that forests are being converted into farmland poses more threat to their survival hence making them very endangered. Deforestation and encroachment on mountain gorilla habitats is severe within Virunga National Park (the Eastern side of the Democratic Republic of Congo) where more than 3700 acres of forest land was cleared by encroachers in addition to harvesting of trees for firewood and timber inside the forest.
Poaching is another challenge affecting the Mountain gorillas. Since their discovery two decades ago, Scientists in addition poachers killed to over 50 of these Giant Apes and today, the threat still exists and their numbers and habitats are at risk. Poachers normally use wire snares to trap warthogs, antelopes and other wildlife species but sadly mountain gorillas also get caught up in the traps hence lose body parts or even their lives. Unfortunately, there are still instances when these primates are killed and their body parts sold to researchers, and their infants sold as pets. Poaching is even worse within the Democratic Republic of Congo where bush meat is still hunted than other countries
What is being done to save the critically endangered Mountain gorillas
Revenues from the sale of gorilla permits is used for promoting environmental initiatives including revenue sharing to provide local community members with alternative sources of income, conserving and protection of the mountain gorillas. When revenue is disbursed, it is used for funding some of the community development projects like sanitation and water projects and sustainable agriculture among others.
Outreach projects are importantly used in ensuring sensitization and awareness as a way of conserving mountain gorillas and teaching local community members about proper hygiene and prevent the transmission of diseases between humans and animals.
Not only that, mountain gorillas are saved through habituation into families, donation and funding programs of conservation initiatives, purchase of handcrafts to support local enterprises and participating community-based tourist activities around the National Parks.
In conclusion, Mountain gorillas are critically endangered wildlife species because of their slow population rate and low World population (880 individuals) as well as numerous threats such as habitat loss, diseases as well as poaching. However, with the revenue sharing program outreach projects and community-based tourist activities, the mountain gorillas are saved from threats against their survival.