It is unfortunate to say that Gorilla, our closest relative and most intelligent mammal now is in the red list of IUCN as an endangered species (EN A2cd). Mountain Gorilla or gorilla beringei, is one of the three subspecies of Gorilla. Mountain gorilla is now under threat due to degradation of their habitat, poaching, human contact and illnesses.For commercial trade in bushmeat and poaching are intentional threats to gorillas from human.
In Africa, Mountain Gorilla occurs in the national parks of Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Virunga national park, Mt. Kahuzi, Rwenzoris mountain national park, Volcans national park, MgahingaNational Park, and Bwindi-Impenetrable National Park are the home for Mountain Gorilla. We are going to discuss about actual and potential threats behind the reduction of population of Gorilla.
The habitat loss and deforestation has been a potential threat for Mountain Gorilla. Mountainous forests, Tropical Montane cloud forest, and Bamboo Forests are the major habitat for Mountain Gorillas. The modification for human settlement, wood extraction and forest encroachment for agricultural purpose are the root for habitat loss. Commercial logging interests, subsistence agriculture for huge population with poverty pressure, and infrastructure development like road building activities are the main reasons for deforestation.
The highest densities of rural population of Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, sustain their lives by forming land for subsistence agriculture from fragment of forests. In DRC, clearance of forests is going on for the supplying firewood for refugees.
More than 1/3rd of Volcans national park of Rwanda was used for agricultural purposes. In Uganda, the incursion of local people and their livestock in Mgahinga national park have a major impact on the habitat of Mountain Gorillas.
Human and Gorillas are like the closest cousins on the base of genetics and intelligence. As DNAs of Gorillas are 98% matched with the humans, the transmission of diseases from humans is easy. They are getting infectious diseases from us that can affect their population. Even a cold or an infectious virus can kill Gorilla as their immune system is weak for a specific disease.
The first time exposure to a virus, may lead to destroy the entire gorilla population. As they do not have immune system for the specific innocuous viruses can wipe out gorillas from a region.
In 1990, Ebola hemorrhagic fever became a big reason for the death of gorillas. The 1/3rd of the world’s Gorilla Population is killed by Ebola Virus. During 1994, outbreak of Ebola Virus killed the entire population of Gorillas and Chimpanzees of Minkebe national park. Odzala national park in Northern side of DRC lost more than 92% of 600 identified gorillas due to the Ebola Virus in between 2002 and 2003.
Skin diseases like scabies, mange and other respiratory diseases infected through human contacts to gorillas. So, it is advisable for tourists to maintain a minimum distance of 7 meters from gorillas. In 1996, a male Gorilla is died at the time of treatment for scabies during the outbreak of scabies in Biwindi Impenetrable national park of Uganda.
For the decades, European and American scientists killed over 50 Mountain Gorillas to make their research. Poaching is the real threat that makes hardest for gorillas to sustain their life. After the end of civil war in Sudan, the logging companies’ moves to the DRC and started living with gorillas, lead to hunting of Gorillas. Recently, in 2013, a gorilla recovered which was held as captive for poaching, on the outside of Virunga national park.
During 1960 to 1970, the gorillas were used as for trophy hunting. Though it is illegal to hunt the gorillas in DRC, the poaching continues due to lack of enforcement of national and international laws. Due to the highest demand of bushmeat of gorillas, as a food of prestigious status of wealthy people, poaching and hunting continues for the commercial trade.
Also because of the weight of saleable meat, hunting of gorillas is largely favoured by the hunters. Sometimes hunters accidentally kills gorilla when targeting pig or any antelope by using traps and snares. Their body parts are used by humans for medicine and magic charms.
During 1990, the genocide and conflict in Rwanda had expanded into DRC by 1994. The refugees were the population of Rwanda population which entered into the gorilla habitat of Virunga national park of DRC. To survive, refugees started use of wood for fire and cleared the forests for agriculture.
The same fight broke out between the troops of Rwanda and Uganda and the DRC army, which results into the huge number of refugee entered into the DRC. Huge refugees near Virunga national park, uses wood for their survival led to habitat loss. This armed conflict not only results into habitat loss but also reason of death of highest population of Mountain gorillas for poaching.
There is a death of 15 to 17 mountain gorillas in caused by the destruction of Virunga national park infrastructure due to conflict in DRC IN 1996.
According to the report, during the armed conflicts of 1992 to 2000, there is a death of 12 to 17 Mountain gorillas only in the Virunga volcanoes region of DRC as a result of military activities.
As a result of rebel and refugees, there is a huge population pressure which led to conservation of protected areas is impossible.
Due to ongoing civil unrest and armed conflict, there is a habitat loss and a lot of poaching.The Government of Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya should give the opportunity for job to the local people to sustain their life. As a most intelligent species is now in danger, the poaching should be banned and the hunter should be punished. The rules and regulations against the poaching should be implemented on the root level, so that the ongoing reduction of Gorillas can be prevented.