What are the threats to mountain gorillas?

Mountain gorillas are one of the endangered species in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List a global authority on the status of the natural world.  It was just in 2018 when the mountain gorilla population was moved from critically endangered to endangered on the IUCN Red List.

This was a success story after strong conservation efforts following great deterioration in the mountain gorilla populations. However, what are the threats that Mountain gorillas face? Here are some of the threats to the elusive mountain gorillas;

  • Habitat loss

Mountain gorillas only survive in their natural habitats and this is in the dense forests of Bwindi and Virunga massif. Unfortunately, the primary threat to mountain gorillas is habitat loss as a result of forest clearance and degradation. 

With the increasing population in the communities around the gorilla habitats, there’s competition for natural resources such as firewood that leads to deforestation. There’s also conversion of neighboring land for agriculture which limits the boundaries of the gorilla habitat. The rapid deforestation does not only restrict the habitat where gorillas sustain their lives but also expose them to other threats like bush meat trade. 

  • Hunting and Poaching

Recently, poaching of mountain gorillas for food is rare. However, in the first two decades after their discovery trophy hunters killed over 50 mountain gorillas which jeopardized the gorilla population. Lately, the threat to gorillas is that they get to snares set up for other wildlife like antelopes, bush pigs and other species.

These cause injuries and occasionally kill gorillas. The most unfortunate incidents of poaching throughout the mountain gorilla habitat was in 2002, 2004, 2007 and 2013 when an infant gorilla was recovered outside Virunga National Park. The infant portrayed clear signs of being held captive. Thanks to the conservationists the infant joined other three rescued mountain gorillas in the Senkwenkwe facility of Congo under continuous care. 

  • Guerilla war

Lucky enough Uganda has been more politically stable than any other gorilla habitat. However, the neighboring Rwanda had an unrest in 1994 that led to loss of gorilla habitat and gorillas themselves. The Democratic Republic of Congo has had lots of rebel groups attacking the Virunga National Park and led to loss of several gorillas. 

However, lately, the three countries are much more stable and have embarked on strong conservation efforts that have seen an increase in the gorilla population. An incident where a gorilla at the Senkwekwe Centre known as Kaboko lost his arm from poach and lived a life of frustration. He later on died after stress caused by gun fire. Political unrest is a big threat to the mountain gorilla population. 

  • Disease

Mountain gorillas are vulnerable to disease and can even catch a cold from a human being. This is because they are closely related to humans and have similar anatomical and physiological features. Exposure to an illness or disease that is relatively innocuous to humans may wipe away a whole population. This is why it is advisable for all tourists going for Uganda gorilla trekking safaris or gorilla tours in Rwanda to ensure that they are in perfect health, during briefing one can be stopped from trekking if they expose danger to the gorillas.  

In summary, Mountain gorilla threats are poaching, guerilla wars, habitat loss and disease. However, there are also other threats to mountain gorilla populations that include infrastructure development, climate change and many more. Ugandan gorilla Rwanda safari experts support conservation and advise all of their clients to support conservation by not exposing any threat to gorillas.