“When you realize the value of all life you dwell less on past and concentrate more on the conservation of the future.” -Dian Fossey
Human conflict provoked by war zone areas endanger not only the lives of humans but of the animals that inhabit the area. More than 70% of Africa’s national parks are suffering under conflict which greatly endangers the lives of primates such as the gorilla. Besides getting caught between conflicting sides and becoming injured, gorillas face an increased danger of poaching during wartime. As law enforcement and agencies flee the area as the danger of war rises, poachers seize their opportunity to prey on gorillas in the absence of those who seek to protect them. Gorillas face one natural predator in their environment, the leopard, yet they face the threat from humans in reducing their population numbers.
There are little over 800 mountain gorillas left on Earth and just 300 are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Virunga National Park contains 3,000 miles of dormant and active volcanoes, grassy savannas and thick forests which mountain gorillas call their home. Hunting, trading and consuming gorillas are all illegal in all Congo Basin countries however poaching is still a treat to the population. Trophies and live infant gorillas are popular goals for poachers to obtain and sell. With such a high price for these items, poachers often come armed with guns to reach the gorillas, prepared to harm whoever might attempt to stop them.Forest rangers are trained to protect gorillas against vicious armed poachers and rebel militia that might cause harm to the wildlife. The national park is attempting to limit human interaction with the gorillas since there are such a low number still living in the wild.
The spread of infectious diseases is a dangerous cause of concern for gorillas since they’re capable of catching human infections. Gorillas live in family groups and the loss of a dominate silver-back can be devastating to the family. Humans can spread diseases to gorillas and therefore must wear surgical masks to prevent the spread of germs. This is occurring more often as virus’ continue to spread among the gorilla populations. The spread of Ebola caused 95 percent of the Gorilla population to die between the years of 2002 and 2003 in the Congo research areas. Researchers are looking to find a vaccine for gorillas to protect them against Ebola but were met by backlash as their research could be seen to be competing with research to protect humans against the devastating virus.
Mountain gorillas continue to be classified as endangered as their main population home in the Virunga Mountains faces fierce environmental threats from humans. Gorillas are herbivores, feeding on nettle and wild celery found within the forest. Illegal settlers cleared over 3,700 acres of forest recently, making food sources for the gorillas harder to find. These settlers began to harvest charcoal in the forest for heating and energy. This illegal production is devastating to gorilla populations and is depleting their home forest. Charcoal is a cheap alternative energy to people in the Congo. People harvesting charcoal in the forest rebel on the forest inhabitants and turn to killing gorillas to make further profit. The Poachers prey on gorillas setting fatal traps on areas gorillas frequent with their meat being sold for high prices on the black market.
There are different ways to help gorillas and organizations in their conservation efforts. The main way is to visit the gorillas in their natural habitat! This increases local revenue and continues to spread awareness by directing coming into contact with these beautiful creatures. As not everyone has the means to visit Africa, it is possible to support important organizations in their journey to protect gorillas in the wild. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund’s Karisoke Research Center supports more than 100 gorilla activists who are crucial in protecting Rwanda’s gorilla population. This group is currently educating local university students on gorilla protection and their home forest environmental conservation. Through this organization you can symbiotically adopt a gorilla to support conversation and protection efforts in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Spreading awareness on strengthening gorilla protection and conservation is an important step in helping these endangered creatures survive in their home environment.
Ways to Get Involved:
Written by: Katelyn Goetten