What are the major threats on mountain gorillas? It was estimated in the 1980s that there were less than 400 mountain gorillas in the globe. With so few left, the species’ continued existence was in jeopardy. Over the following decades, conservation efforts have increased that number to little over a thousand. Although there is still hope for the mountain gorillas, there are still numerous grave risks they must contend with, including as sickness, poaching, habitat degradation, and civil turmoil.
The destruction and clearing of mountain gorillas’ natural habitat afromontane forests poses the biggest threat to these primates. The increasing number of people in the area is encroaching on park resources and land as they fight to make ends meet. Diverse levels of deforestation result from the conversion of land for agricultural use and competition for scarce natural resources like firewood.
It is necessary to create sustainable alternatives and engage in new economic ventures that enable people to meet their basic requirements if we are to preserve the mountain gorillas’ forest home. In particular, tourism strengthens the local economy and persuades the populace to view gorillas as opportunities to better their own lot in life rather than as rivals.
The area’s previous risks from mining and oil exploration have decreased as a result of advocacy efforts. By telling others about the mountain gorillas, you can lessen the chance that these resources will be exploited in the future.
Humans and gorillas are closely related, sharing many anatomical and physiological traits. They are hence susceptible to numerous ailments. A disease or virus that is reasonably safe for humans to contract for the first time could wipe out an entire population of gorillas because they have not developed the requisite immunizations. Living in small groups, gorillas may never fully recover from an unexpected decline in population due to illness. Any human interaction has the potential to be dangerous, even fatal.
While tourists visiting the gorillas are advised to maintain a 7-meter distance, other potential risks include poachers, scientists, rangers, environmentalists, militia groups, and local populations. Common skin conditions like scabies and mange, as well as respiratory illnesses that may spread fast from group to group when families meet, have already claimed the lives of some gorillas. The park is regularly cleared of debris left by refugees, poachers, and the military to reduce the risk of contamination to wildlife. Additionally, a health education programme is being implemented to counteract the threat of disease.
In the first two decades after the discovery of mountain gorillas, European and American scientists and trophy hunters killed over fifty of them. Gorillas were stolen in the 1960s and 1970s to be sold to foreigners as trophies and captive specimens. In captivity, none made it. Recent instances have demonstrated that there is still a serious risk of hunting being carried out on behalf of dishonest dealers with the intention of capturing baby mountain gorillas.
Tragic incidents of direct poaching, either the killing of mountain gorillas or capture of infants for the live animal trade, occurred throughout the mountain gorilla range in 2002, 2004, 2007. Locals slaughtered a whole family of mountain gorillas in 2007 in an attempt to force the park to allow resource development.
Orphans from this family were saved and cared for at the Senkwenkwe facility in Rumangabo. In 2013, they were joined by Matabishi, an infant recovered outside of Virunga National Park, abandoned in a field with clear signs of being held captive.
Unselective hunting with snares (designed to catch antelopes, bush pigs, and other species) kills or injures mountain gorillas, even though the poaching of mountain gorillas for food is incredibly rare. And poaching still poses a threat to the existence of mountain gorillas today, four poachers were apprehended in the Southern Sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park following the death of a gorilla known as Rafiki, the Silverback of the famous Nkuringo group.
The Rwandan genocide in 1994 was followed by years of civil war in the DRC. The region around the networks of mountain gorilla parks has seen the influx of refugees from both wars, and the parks have served as both havens and battlegrounds for militias. In defending the park system from outside threats, more than 100 rangers have lost their lives.
Disenfranchisement among the local community, climatic change, and disturbances to the health and behaviour of mountain gorillas are additional dangers to their survival.