Main Threats to Mountain Gorillas
Main threats to mountain gorillas are majorly four. Mountain gorillas are great apes that inhabit the dense tropical rainforests of the Virunga massifs and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park which inhabits more than half the total world population of mountain gorillas. The rest of the gorilla population is shared amongst the Virunga Massifs of Virunga National Park of the Congo, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park of Uganda and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Mountain gorillas had been listed as critically endangered but until 2018 that saw their population grow to about 1063 individuals, they are listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
It is because of combined efforts by the bodies responsible for the conservation and regulation of the wildlife in the respective countries say the Rwanda Development Board for Rwanda and Uganda’s Uganda Wildlife Authority along with other conservation partners and NGOs that mountain gorilla population has grown. The threat to their survival for many more generations is however hard to overlook. Below are some of the main threats to mountain gorillas;
Habitat Loss: Habit loss tops the list of the main threats to mountain gorillas. Habitat loss has people getting involved in the degradation and deforestation of the tropical rainforest for either human settlement, agricultural use or logging. With the growing population in communities that surround the national parks that inhabit the mountain gorillas, cutting down trees for human settlement and crop cultivation is inevitable. Also cutting trees for charcoal and firewood for sale has the habitat for mountain gorillas getting lost which endangers their sustainability as they cannot live anywhere else for long, more so in captivity.
To maintain the natural habitat of the mountain gorillas, alternative economic activities ought to be put in place such that the people do not destroy the natural and thick vegetation that the mountain gorillas can live in freedom.
Diseases: Diseases is another of the main threats to mountain gorillas. Diseases like Ebola has seen a number of gorillas lose their lives and thus endangering their lives. Gorillas share about 98% DNA with humans, making them susceptible to human illnesses as well. Much as there are gorilla doctors and conservationists who take care and treat the mountain gorillas, the rate at which they acquire diseases and also maintaining track of the sick is quite hard. With an increase in the number of people that get close to the gorillas say people who move into their habitats, conservationists, rangers and tourists, the gorillas are too exposed to human interaction and thus acquiring diseases that are life-threatening to them.
It is for this reason that tourists who visit the mountain gorillas on a gorilla trekking safari are supposed to maintain a 7-meter distance away from the gorillas as well as not touch them. Restrictions on sick persons to not visit the gorillas and children below 15 years not visiting the gorillas for they still have childhood diseases like measles, mumps which could spread to the gorillas are all put in place to protect the gorillas.
Poaching and Hunting: Poaching and hunting of the mountain gorillas more so in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the main threats to mountain gorillas. Poaching and hunting gorillas for bushmeat, sale, pets and keeping in zoos is a great threat that sees gorilla families being split and most of them being killed in the process of capturing them. Some people consider bush meat especially of gorillas to be delicious and prestigious to eat, thus poaching the already endangered mountain gorillas for food. The mountain gorillas also fall into traps and snares meant for other animals like bushpigs, thus getting hurt if not killed. Hunting and capturing gorillas for wildlife trade is also still on the rise and is sure to continue due to the lack of enforcement of national and international laws and the ineffective judiciary systems that do not do justice to captured poachers.
Wars and instability: The on-and-off wars and instabilities that ensure say in the Congo threaten the life of mountain gorillas which are killed in the middle of crossfires between the government forces and the rebels. These dense tropical rainforests are a hiding place for rebels who kill the gorillas if not for meat then in a crossfire. Landmines and other ammunition debris left behind during the wars are also dangerous to the gorillas as they harm them when they do find them in the forests.
Oil and gas exploration in the Virunga National Park and road constructions in the national parks that inhabit the mountain gorillas are also threats to the gorillas as they are disruptive activities to the peace of the gorillas as well as destroy their nature habitant.
The above listed are the main threats to mountain gorillas. You and I can contribute to the conservation of the gorillas and their natural habitat by saying no to poaching, no to purchasing items made out of poached animals and to advocate the respective governments to hold accountable persons found dealing in illegal wildlife trade. Also, you can contribute by taking part in a gorilla trekking safari to see the gorillas whilst adhering to the set rules and regulations for the conservation of the gorillas.
A percentage of the funds raised from a purchased gorilla permit is given back to the communities to improve on their life and develop the community such that they know the essence of gorillas and their contribution to their lives thus not poach or encroach on their habitat. Some of the funds also go to the conservation efforts of the mountain gorillas. Take time to carefully plan out an eco-friendly and sustainable gorilla trekking safari with the help of reputable tour operators.