The Eastern lowland gorilla is the largest subspecies of gorilla. The male weigh more than 205 kilogrammes and can stand more than 1.8 m in height; females weigh half as much as males and usually measure around 1.5 m in height. In general, Grauer’s gorillas are identified by a stocky body and a short muzzle. Like other gorillas, they have black coats, and the coats turn silver on the backs of the adult male members. They also have large hands, with thumbs that are typically larger than the other fingers. The diet of these creatures consists of fruits, herbs, leaves, bark, and vines, although insects are consumed occasionally. With the clearing away of the tropical forests for agricultural or mining purposes, the natural habitats of Grauer’s gorillas are declining rapidly: these animals now occupy only about 13% of their historical range. The prospects for the survival of the eastern lowland gorillas are thus not encouraging.
Why There is Need to Protect the Eastern Lowland Gorillas
Whereas mountain gorillas and the Eastern Lowland gorillas are equally at the risk of extinction in the wild but little has been done to save the lowland gorillas today. Currently, there are fewer than 5000 individuals of Eastern Lowland gorillas left in the world compared to over 17000 individuals that featured 15 years ago and this represents about 80 percent decrease in the last 2 (two) decades. And this makes them one of the rarest primates that are at the verge of extinction in the world. Grauer’s gorillas also popular as the Eastern Lowland gorillas are only thriving in Kahuzi Biega National Park and Maiko National Park, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Given drastic reduction in the number of these special apes rather than increasing, there is need for more support in form of funds to facilitate the work of park rangers in ensuring that intense protection is given to these unique apes and their habitats as well as facilitate research and monitoring activities which intends to find out more on their population, threats and in the long run guide in developing the best measures to conserve them in the wild.
The Eastern lowland gorilla is in danger extinction simply because these gorillas live in a very restricted range. They can only be found in the rain forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in Africa. That means they cannot relocate and any habitat destruction is even more of a problem than it might be if they had a wider range.
As with many endangered species, habitat loss is a serious problem for the Eastern lowland gorilla. The small forest area has been cleared in chunks to make farms and livestock ranches. In addition, the area is rich in a metal that is used in making cell phones, and mines have caused degradation or loss of quality, in the gorillas’ habitat thus the species’ extinction. The demand for resources like bamboo, or wood for charcoal, causes further habitat loss. These demands are only made worse by the ongoing conflicts.
National instability is a danger to the gorillas as well. The Democratic Republic of Congo has been experiencing constant conflicts since the 1990s. There are armed groups operating out of the forests where the gorillas live. There are very few protected areas since conservation is not the focus to the people living there. Basically, this situation makes conservation extremely difficult, and it makes the base issues facing the gorilla much worse.
Climate change is predicted to impact the forests of the Albertine Rift escarpment, leading to the upslope migration of key Gorilla habitat mainly the montane forest. With almost all montane forest in the eastern highlands now destroyed and the land converted to agriculture supporting some of the highest human population densities in the African Great Lakes region, climate change can greatly affect Gorillas with time to come thus their reduction.
Due to increased Poaching and hunting for the gorillas is one of the reasons for their extinction. A high demand for bush meat has been created by the growing human population, widespread artisanal mining in remote areas, the destabilising impacts of armed groups, and a general scarcity of domestic protein in rural areas. Armed rebels residing in the forests increase the extent and intensity of this threat. Miners working in Gorilla habitat admit to poaching Gorillas, valuing them as relatively easy to hunt with guns and providing large quantities of meat (Kirkby et al. 2015). Illegal capture of infants occurs when adults are killed for meat. Attempts may be made to trade these orphans, but usually they die or are seized by the wildlife authorities.
The practice will help to curb down most of the intense threats that have impacted on the lives of not only the mountain gorillas but also Eastern Lowland gorillas in DRC some of which include the insecurity, poaching, forest degradation (habitat loss), infectious diseases and many more. Equally, enormous population of other wildlife species have also been killed especially elephants, chimpanzees, buffaloes and many more mainly to offer bush meat to miners and militias in the DR Congo jungle. And in the long run these endangered species will get extinct in the wild.
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund has been working towards saving the Lowland gorillas right from 2012 and is conserving the forest where these endangered apes thrive. About 2 (two) tracking teams are always monitoring the gorilla habitat each year plus the 3rd tracking team that has also joined and at times the fourth team is hired to add on the already tracking team.
Given the fact that most of these gorillas are not familiar to human presence and should be left without being habituated just for their own safety, Dian Fossey trackers monitor them at one day’s distance with the help of nest sites, footprints, food remains and various measures to find out more about existence, population, travel paths and any other significant information.
Also local communities particularly the traditional landowners have been encouraged to engage in protection of these endangered species. Members are hired from the adjacent local communities and on top of employment, community development efforts are also due to be initiated especially small scale sustainable farm projects to assist reduce malnutrition and bush meat hunting. With these measures, protection of the Lowland gorillas will be successful.
Donations to charities working to protect the rare mountain gorillas helped to finance their conservation and today many visitors are seen flocking into the Virunga Mountain ranges mainly to track these impressively beautiful creatures in their natural habitat. Due to this, mountain gorillas are a few primates whose population is slowly increasing in the world although their number still needs more attention in the jungles of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the same spirit, the Eastern Lowland gorillas equally deserve to be protected so as to benefit not only the current generation but also the future generations. About 270 individuals of eastern lowland gorillas are left in Kahuzi Biega National Park, DR Congo and the park features as the only spot in the world where visitors can catch a glimpse of these unique species while in their natural habitat.
In conclusion, there is need for collective efforts across stakeholders to ensure that peace and security prevails in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ensuring this will help save not only the rare mountain gorillas or the Eastern Lowland gorillas but also other wildlife species and their natural habitat for more generations to come. More programs necessary to ensure that illegal hunting, deforestation and any form of encroachment are prevented in such important protected areas.