• Of the two existing species of gorilla, the western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) is by far the more numerous and widespread. It can be found in Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon.

    These large great apes are mostly herbivores, eating seeds, leaves, fruit, and other plant matter. Western lowland gorillas live in family groups consisting of a dominant male, several females, and their young. They maintain relatively large home ranges in swamps and lowland forests, which provide food sources and nesting sites. Like other great apes, western lowland gorillas are long-lived, reaching 40 years in the wild and over 50 in captivity.

    There are approximately 150,000 to 200,000 western lowland gorillas remaining in the wild today, but their population is declining quickly due to human activities. Despite universal legal protection from hunting, capture, and trade, these critically endangered apes are often poached for bush meat. As global demand for palm oil rises, large tracts of the western lowland gorilla’s forest habitat are threatened by conversion to plantations. Gorillas are also susceptible to disease epidemics, especially fast-spreading diseases like the Ebola virus, which can quickly wipe out large populations.

    Current conservation plans call for careful planning of economic activities and increased awareness education for all local groups near gorilla habitats. Because the gorilla’s range crosses national borders, successful conservation efforts will require the coordination of multiple countries.

    1. What challenges do western lowland gorillas face from human and natural causes?

      Gorillas are threatened by poaching and habitat loss for agricultural uses, and are also susceptible to diseases like the Ebola virus.

    2. Where can western lowland gorillas be found, and what sort of habitat do they use?

      Western lowland gorillas can be found in the western African countries of Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon. There they live in lowland forests and swampland.

    3. What actions have conservation plans suggested for the preservation of western lowland gorilla populations, and what complicates these actions?

      Conservation plans have suggested careful economic planning and increased education and awareness efforts. However, these plans are complicated by the fact that the western lowland gorilla can be found across several countries.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    bush meat Noun

    meat acquired through the hunting of wild animals, particularly in Africa and Asia.

    conservation Noun

    management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.

    Encyclopedic Entry: conservation
    critically endangered Noun

    level of conservation between "endangered" and "extinct in the wild."

    disease Noun

    harmful condition of a body part or organ.

    dominant Adjective

    main or most important.

    epidemic Noun

    outbreak of an infectious disease able to spread rapidly.

    Encyclopedic Entry: epidemic
    habitat Noun

    environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.

    Encyclopedic Entry: habitat
    herbivore Noun

    organism that eats mainly plants and other producers.

    Encyclopedic Entry: herbivore
    palm oil Noun

    fat from the fruit of an oil palm tree used to make soap, candles, grease, and food.

    plantation Noun

    large estate or farm involving large landholdings and many workers.

    poach Verb

    to hunt, trap, or fish illegally.