Gorilla beringei beringei
IUCN Red List classification
The mountain gorilla is one of the two subspecies of the eastern gorilla species. ZSL is involved in conservation of the mountain gorilla though a project which supports the Congolese Wildlife Authority, Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN), in the management of the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo where over half of the remaining mountain gorilla population in the world is found.
- Gorillas are the largest living primate and are quadrupedal (using four legs) herbivores (eats plants). Typically gorillas live in social groups (of 5-20 individuals) that are comprised of females, immature males, and one mature, silverback, male. The eastern species consumes less fruit than the western species and is generally larger and heavier. The two eastern subspecies differ from each other in diet reflecting variable availability in their respective habitats. Mountain gorillas also have particularly long coats.
- The mountain gorilla ranges in the primary and secondary tropical rainforests of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- There are only approximately 680 mountain gorillas left in the wild. These individuals exist in two isolated subpopulations; the Virunga subpopulation (approximately 380 individuals) and the Bwindi subpopulation (approximately 300 individuals).
- Like all gorilla subspecies, the mountain gorilla is threatened by illegal hunting, disease, and habitat loss and degradation. War and political instability also significantly threaten the conservation of the mountain gorilla, particularly in the Virunga National Park, DRC. Mountain gorillas also face threats from gorilla tourism which, although providing substantial revenue for the conservation of both subspecies of eastern gorilla, is associated with disease transmission between humans and gorillas and behaviour disturbance.
- Mountain gorilla populations, although small, were stable, possibly even increasing until 2007 when there were a number of gorilla killings in the Virunga National Park, DRC and approximately 3% of the Virunga subpopulation was lost (read the news stories here: Mountain gorilla family shot dead , New plans to protect survivors of gorilla massacre ). The killing have been linked to the charcoal trade and demonstrate how difficult it can be to conserve species that inhabit volatile regions.
Virunga National Park is the oldest national park in Africa and contains the greatest range of habitats and highest vertebrate species diversity of any park in Africa. It was also the first park in Africa to be listed as a UNESCO natural World Heritage Site, but due to ongoing civil conflict in the region, in 1994 it was relisted as a World Heritage Site in Danger.
The UNEP Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), the UNEP/UNESCO Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) have declared 2009 the Year of the Gorilla. Find out more at the Year of the Gorilla website.