Recent attacks on Eastern gorillas (Gorilla beringei) in the mountains of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have put a spotlight on this gentle giant. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda are the only places left in the world where the Eastern gorilla survives today.
In 1995, about 16,000 Eastern gorillas were estimated to wander the forests of Eastern Afromontane Biodiversity Hotspot and eastern edge of the Congo Basin High-Biodiversity Wilderness Area. Today, after a decade of losses, scientists are unsure how many remain. Throughout their range, populations have been reduced, fragmented, or completely lost as result of targeted poaching for bushmeat and deforestation.
The mountain gorillas are the most well-known of the Eastern gorillas. These distinct populations, numbering around 700 individuals, are a key tourist attraction and source of hope for fragile economies emerging from years of conflict in the region. They are an example of where humans and conservation can co-exist and benefit, even in an area with some of the highest densities of humans on the planet.
Until the recent attacks, some populations were held up as a rare conservation success for Africa’s great apes. Some areas saw population numbers increase thanks to coordinated conservation efforts of the last decade. In DRC’s first community-run nature reserve, Tayna Gorilla Reserve, supported by CI and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, scientists reported larger than previously recorded populations, once feared to be at risk of extinction.
The story is far bleaker for its close relative, the Western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla), which has suffered even greater losses as a result of heavy commercial poaching and increasing Ebola outbreaks due to increased contact with humans. These threats have been driven by commercial logging which has increased access to populations that were once isolated. The IUCN now classifies the Western gorilla as Critically Endangered.
CI is working with partners and local communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo to protect gorillas in the Tayna Gorilla Reserve. Take a closer look at this partnership.
CI President Russ Mittermeier traveled to Congo with a group of conservationists to experience gorillas in their natural habitat. Explore Congo's national parks with Russ and learn more about how these gentle giants live.
The Global Conservation Fund and its partners are supporting community-initiated reserves that are creating a vast new wildlife corridor between two national parks – Maiko and Kahuzi-Beiga – so the gorillas can move safely through the landscape.
The Congo Basin is the second-largest tropical wilderness on our planet – only the Amazon is larger. The Basin is primary home of the threatened gorilla and numerous other interesting species. Learn more.
The Western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla
) is found in the forests of west Africa, while the Eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei
) is found in the lowlands and mountains of central-Eastern Africa.
Both species are highly threatened by habitat loss and hunting, but the Western gorilla has been placed under greater risk from Ebola, which has killed humans and apes alike in some areas. The world-famous mountain gorillas that were studied by Dianne Fossey are considered by most experts to be a unique population of the Eastern gorilla.