People consider gorillas as human relatives after species like the Chimpanzees and Bonobos. These animals are not only strong and have a striking appearance, but they are also known to have a gentleness resemblance to that of human behaviour. Belonging to the ape family, these animals are a key player to world’s biodiversity due to the effective seed dispersal. Their species include the Western Gorilla and the Eastern Gorilla. The Western species has subspecies that include the Western Lowland Gorilla and the Cross River Gorilla. On the other hand, the Eastern Gorilla species has the Mountain gorilla and Eastern Lowland or Grauer’s gorilla subspecies. Despite the broad classification of the Gorilla, her world population is decreasing at an alarming rate making the animal endangered. So the question is why the gorillas are becoming endangered?
According to a world population survey, the Western Lowland Gorilla population is at 100,000 while the Eastern Lowland Gorilla is numbering at 17,000. According to the statistic, the Mountain Gorillas are around 880. The rarest of the species is the Cross River Gorilla that number about 300. These figures show that Gorillas are on the verge of becoming extinct or rather: they are dying out!
One of the reasons the gorillas are becoming fewer in number is because they are hunted and traded, especially for their bushmeat. On the North Eastern side of Congo, for example, poachers kill approximately 5% of gorillas every year. Besides, this has become a common trend in the western parts of Africa. The gorilla meat is now more popular than beef with people consuming up to six million tons of its meat annually. The fact that the meat is a source of protein, it is cheap and easily accessible has made the animal prey. Scientists predict that if this situation abides for long, the entire region of the Congo forest basin may become devoid of these mammals. While the governments in Gorilla habitat countries have laws prohibiting poaching of the animals, the laws are not enforced, and little effort is made to do so. Consequently, there is little hope for the â€œendangeredâ€ status of the gorillas.
Gorillas are also killed for their body parts that are used to make traditional medicine. For example, the male gorilla is killed for its penis, as it is believed to have an anti-poison substance that is used to make drugs. Their bodies are also used to make charms. Besides, while their hands are used to make ashtrays, their heads are taken and used as souvenirs or decoration for houses.
Vulnerability to Infectious Diseases
Infectious diseases are another reason the gorilla population is dying out fast. For example, the outbreak of Ebola haemorrhaging fever significantly affected this animals killing up to a third of the world’s gorilla population. The worst outbreak was of 1994 in Minkebe, Ghana, that wiped out the whole gorilla population that was considered as the second largest population in the world. The fever may still be killing the animals, especially in the Congo Basin.
Habitat loss is another reason for the reduction of the gorilla population. Today, people are destroying the world’s forests rapidly for various reasons such as commercial logging, agricultural purposes, construction of roads and railways, and home set-ups to cater for increasing human population. Forest fires are also are other causes for decreasing forest cover. The reduction of forest sizes that play habitat for wild animals including the gorillas has made them vulnerable to poaching. Also, another detrimental consequence is the loss of genetic diversity, and this is especially true for the Cross River Gorilla due to their small population size.
An action is needed to avert the cause of the decline of the Gorillas. It is true that the primary cause making them endangered is human action, which people can control.