Eastern lowland gorilla
Eastern lowland gorilla
Gorilla beringei graueri
IUCN Red List classification
The eastern lowland gorilla, also known as Grauer's gorilla, is one of the two subspecies of the eastern gorilla species. Although less well known, the eastern lowland gorilla is significantly more abundant than the mountain gorilla (the other eastern gorilla subspecies), although still at considerable risk of extinction.
ZSL is involved in conservation of the eastern lowland 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. A highly endangered population of around 20 individuals (the smallest gorilla population in the world) inhabit the forests of Mount Tshiaberimu, an ecosystem of about 60km-squared at an altitude of around 3100m, which is in the northern annex of Virunga National Park, off the northwest corner of Lake Edward.
- 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.
- Eastern lowland gorillas are only found in the eastern forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Contrary to what its name might suggest, the eastern lowland gorilla has the widest altitudinal range of all the gorilla subspecies and is known to exist in habitats from 600 to 2900 metres above sea level.
- During the last decade, it is believed that the total population of eastern lowland gorilla has dramatically declined and become increasingly fragmented.
- Like all gorilla subspecies, the eastern lowland gorilla is threatened by illegal hunting, disease, and habitat loss and degradation. Agriculture and the mining and logging industries cause massive loss and fragmentation of the gorillas’ forest habitats. The eastern region of the DRC has an extremely high human population growth rate and so the threats posed by deforestation and wildife use are likely to only increase. War and political instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo, resulting in the illegal occupation of national parks and the killing of wildlife for food, further impede the conservation of the eastern lowland gorilla.
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.