Gorillas are the largest of the great apes and play a vital ecological role in the forests of Central Africa. Despite their considerable economic, cultural and aesthetic value to many people worldwide, the future of gorillas is far from secure. The primary threats are poaching; habitat degradation and loss due to mining, logging and agriculture; and diseases, most notably Ebola. These factors are further exacerbated by conflict and poor governance in many of the remaining gorilla strongholds.
The rapid degradation of gorilla habitat due to mining, commercial logging, subsistence agriculture and road building activities poses a significant threat to the remaining populations of wild gorillas. Habitat loss and fragmentation also result in the creation of isolated populations which suffer the additional problems of inbreeding and disease.
Habitat loss is also inextricably linked to the illegal bushmeat trade. Commercial logging, agriculture and the associated new transport infrastructure significantly increase access for poachers into previously inaccessible forest areas, and additionally allow for the use of vehicles to transport large volumes of poached bushmeat out of the forest.
Hunting and Poaching
Poaching of gorillas for bushmeat, as well as body parts which are used in traditional medicines and as magical charms, poses a major threat to remaining wild gorilla populations. As a result of the gorillas’ low reproductive rate, even relatively low levels of poaching can cause population decline which may take generations to reverse. Gorillas are also frequently caught, and maimed or killed, in traps intended for other forest animals.