Why are Eastern Lowland Gorillas Endangered?

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

Eastern lowland gorillas are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. In this lesson we'll look at the reasons behind their status.

Critically Endangered

Did you know there are seven levels of classification for how endangered a species is? That is according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). With each level, the significance is more severe, and it escalates from 'least concern' all the way up to 'extinct.' Critically endangered is level five, just below 'extinct in the wild.' One species that warrants this classification is the Eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri).

In 1994 there were almost 17,000 Eastern lowland gorillas in the wild, but over the course of just 21 years, they lost 77% of their population. As of 2015, there were only about 3,800 left. Just imagine if 77% of the human population vanished within your lifetime.

The Specifics

Part of the problem is that these gorillas live in a very restricted range. They can only be found in the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in Africa. That means they cannot relocate, and any habitat destruction is even more of a problem than it might be if they had a wider range.

Eastern lowland gorillas live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Africa map

National Instability

Their location affects the gorillas in another way as well. The DRC has been the site of constant conflict since the 1990s. There are armed groups operating out of the forests where the gorillas live. Conservation is not the main focus of the people living there, and there are very few protected areas. The few national parks that exist can't enforce their borders, and conservationists have no way of going into the areas, either to track the gorillas or try and stop poaching and habitat destruction. Basically, this situation makes conservation extremely difficult, and it makes the base issues facing the gorilla much worse.

Habitat Loss

As with many endangered species, habitat loss is a serious problem for the Eastern lowland gorilla. Their already small forest area has been cleared in chunks to make farms and livestock ranches. In addition, the area is rich in a metal that is used in making cell phones, and mines have caused degradation, or loss of quality, in the gorillas' habitat.

Finally, the demand for resources like bamboo, or wood for charcoal, causes further habitat loss. These demands are only made worse by the ongoing conflicts.

Habitat loss is one reason for the endangered status of this gorilla species
Eastern lowland gorilla

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