Animals in the wild are continuously threatened by deforestation, which limits their natural habitat. Gorillas are one of the four great ape species that are closest to humans in DNA structure. The other three are orangutans, bonobos and chimpanzees. Gorillas are herbivores and live on fruits, vines, roots, shoots and leaves. They are found in the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Angola, Gabon, Equatorial New Guinea, Nigeria and Cameroon. These shy animals dwell on land and construct their nests or beds of plant materials and leaves at dusk.
Threats to gorillas
There are several threats that endanger gorillas. There are the ongoing human conflicts in the areas where gorillas are found. Poaching is also a huge problem. Illegal traders capture young gorillas and sell them off. Unselective hunting for various wildlife, including bush pigs and antelopes inadvertently caught gorillas in their snares. Recently gorilla poaching for bush meat has been discovered.
Gorillas are also threatened by many diseases due to their exposure to humans because they have not developed any immunity to various viruses and illnesses. Although tourism is of great help in providing funds for gorilla conservation in Africa, they also have devastating effect on the primates as well as their environment. Debris left by tourists, militia, refugees and poachers contaminate the gorilla parks.
Habitat loss and deforestation
The greatest threat to gorillas is habitat loss. Rainforests are increasingly being cleared and degraded. This is mainly due to population growth and poverty. Just like during the Roman Empire, forested lands were quickly converted for agriculture, depleting the limited natural resources like wood for fuel and heat, which contributed to deforestation. Deforestation happens everywhere, including the areas in Africa that gorillas inhabit. Sadly, chainsaw manufacturers don’t really care about this because deforestation efforts fuel their business. What about the company who makes the best chainsaw? Well, they choose to keep mum about the matter to avoid further controversies and backlash from environmentalists.
The truth is, gorillas are finding it more difficult to sustain their lives as their natural habitat becomes smaller. It is not only the gorillas that are affected by the changes in the environment. Humans are affected as well. Over the years, various habitats such as lakes, plains and swamps, aside from forests around the world continue to disappear. They are harvested to support human consumption. Forests and other habitats are cleared for pipelines, roads, housing and agriculture to be developed for industrial progress.
Half of the original forests in the world have already disappeared and the practice continues. The level of regrowth is 10x slower than the rate of deforestation. Other factors include forest fires, ranching, unsustainable logging, oil exploration, mining and natural degradation because of climate change.
How to help the gorillas and the forests
Gorilla tourism significantly contribute to their conservation, as it provides the funds to create jobs and other benefits to local communities living close to the gorillas. Income from gorilla tourism also contribute to conservation projects to help the great apes. You can do your part by visiting the gorillas in Africa that are living in protected natural gorilla parks.
You can visit the WWF site and purchase a “Gorilla’s Paradise” gift to support the protected areas in Gabon. You can also make cash donations to WWF to support the organisation’s conservation efforts for gorillas.
Use social networking sites to share information about gorillas and encourage others to support legitimate organisations working to help conserve gorillas and their habitat.
Help organisations like the World Wide Fund for Nature, Conservation International, Community Forestry International and Greenpeace to conserve rainforests. On your own you can help save the forests from being degraded by purchasing recycled items like shopping bags, toilet paper, books and notebooks.
Farmers should rotate crops to maintain soil fertility and prevent deforestation from spreading. They can also plant high-yield hybrid crops and try hydroponics.
Limit your consumption of palm oil, one of the ingredients in the production of some shampoos, chocolates and breads. Thousands of trees in Indonesia and Malaysia were cut to give way to palm oil plantations, which effectively reduced the native habitats of orangutans.
Volunteer in reforestation projects and try to plant at least five trees each year.
While we cannot prevent progress, we can support projects aimed for sustainable and alternative programs that can enhance human and industrial development. Support development projects that will not do too much damage on forests that can affect the lives of many wildlife such as gorillas, and conversely, human population.
Tourists and animal lovers are always thrilled spotting endangered species and are often enthused to feel these creatures. But animal activists say that it is not wise to have close contact with the endangered species. Mountain gorillas are threatened by the disease transmission that happens during contact with the humans. This has been a cause of concern for activists who work for the preservation of these species. Though, it cannot be denied that research and work of the scientists along with tourism play a vital role in the survival of these endangered species.
There are some tips offered by the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project. The good news is tourism protects the species from going extinct. The DR Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda are the home to the mountain gorillas. The mode of livelihood is farming in Africa. The government has restricted agriculture in the gorilla’s volcano surroundings as an effort to protect the species. This extreme step has been taken because the funds coming from tourism is more than using the park for other purposes. Gorillas are susceptible to disease that affects humans and therefore it is advised not to trek when you are sick.
While on gorilla tourism ensures that you do not alter the behavioral pattern of the ape. It is advised to stay 7 meters away from the animal. Younger gorillas do not know the rules and try to touch the humans, so it is safe to stay 7 meters during the interaction with the animal. The best way to be part of the effort of saving the endangered species is to donate for the cause. The conservation project runs mostly on donations and grants. While donating, evaluate the organization and offer your contributions. Apart from gorilla trekking, there are other activities available in the park that also needs your attention, like visiting the Nyiragongo volcano, My Karismibi, seeing golden monkeys and more.
Gorilla trekking is popular among the safaris, and various national parks exhibit gorillas in their natural habitat. The most prominent among them include Mgahinga National Park in Uganda, Virunga National Park in the DRC, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Despite the best government and private efforts, there is a lot to be done for protecting the species. Some of the ways to support the case include, spreading the work about gorilla tourism. It helps create awareness and generate funds for the cause. Befriend a gorilla at the Friend a Gorilla campaign helping to protect the gorillas. The initiative was started by the Uganda Wildlife Authority at a cost of $1 to become a friend of a gorilla at the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
The Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network and the International Gorilla Conservation Programme have launched the Gorilla Friendly Pledge to create awareness on minimizing the risk of transmitting diseases from humans. Share your feedback about the trip. Your gorilla safari experience could be an eye opening experience to many others. It helps to promote Gorilla tourism. There are NGO, Inter-Government organizations and other bodies working towards protecting the species. Take part in the effort by donating to the cause of protecting mountain gorillas from extinction.