Eastern lowland gorilla

A subspecies of eastern gorilla, the eastern lowland gorilla is found only in the rainforests of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
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Eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla graueri).
© naturepl.com/Karl Ammann / WWF

Key facts

  • Common names

    Eastern lowland gorilla, Grauer's gorilla; Gorille oriental de la plaine, gorille de Grauer (Fr); Gorila (Sp)

  • Scientific name

    Gorilla beringei graueri

  • Location

    Tropical rainforest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

  • Population

    Unknown; may have reached 17,000 at one time

  • status

    Endangered

    More

Physical description

Also known as Grauer's gorilla, the eastern lowland gorilla is the largest of the gorilla subspecies. This impressive animal is identified by a stocky body, large hands and a short muzzle. Unusually, the gorilla's thumbs are larger than the fingers. The face, ears, hands, and feet are bare, and the chest in old males lacks hair. 

Compared to the other eastern gorilla subspecies, the mountain gorilla, the eastern lowland gorilla has shorter hair and teeth, and longer arms.

Population & distribution

Previous population & distribution
The eastern lowland gorilla occurs in the lowland and Albertine Rift montane forests of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Until the mid-1990s, the population was thought to number around 17,000 individuals.

Current population & distribution
There are currently no reliable population estimates due to lack of census data in remote regions, as well as the unknown impact of decades of civil conflict in eastern DRC.

The subspecies' stronghold is Kahuzi-Biega National Park, where it is threatened by bushmeat hunters and human encroachment.

Numbers have declined by 80-90% in the last 5 years, largely due to increased poaching in the park.Its strongold is Kahuzi Biega National Park, 

The geographic range of the subspecies covers 12,000 km², down from 21,000 km² in 1963. Data suggests that eastern lowland gorillas occupy only 13% of their former geographic range.

What are the main threats?

Habitat loss and degradation
There are few protected areas within the eastern lowland gorilla's range. Due to civil unrest (see below), its stronghold, Kahuzi-Biega National Park, is under severe threat from poachers and encroachment, and it has been very difficult for park guards to patrol borders in this region.

People have moved into the park in order to mine coltan, an alloy used for mobile phones. This has also resulted in forests being cleared for farming. 

Conflict & instability
Civil conflict and political instability have left the Congolese National Parks network in a state of dereliction, hampering the effective conservation of the eastern lowland gorialla.

Hunting and trade
The trade in bushmeat, which occurs over much of the eastern lowland gorilla's range, may now be more of a threat than habitat loss and degradation, but the number of gorillas killed annually is unknown. The influx of people into Kahuzi-Biega National Park has also resulted in an increase in bushmeat hunting.

Gorillas are also sought after as food and pets, and their body parts are used in medicine and as magical charms.
 / ©: Chris Martin BAHR / WWF-Canon
Young eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri)
© Chris Martin BAHR / WWF-Canon

Habitat

Major habitat type
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests

Biogeographic realm
Afrotropical

Range States
Democratic Republic of the Congo

Geographical Location
Central Africa

Ecological Region
Northeastern Congo Basin Moist Forests
Gorrila territory affected by war, mining and logging. The pressure on protected areas by militias ... / ©: Riccardo Pravettoni / UNEP-Grid-Arendal Sources: UNOCHA, series of maps; The Woods Hole Research Center, UNFCCC-COP, Reducing Co2 Emissions from Deforestation And Degrada- tion in The Democratic Republic of Congo: A First Look, 2007; Institut Géographique National congolaise; Global Witness, “Faced with a gun, what can you do?”, 2009; The Guardian press release.
Gorrila territory affected by war, mining and logging. The pressure on protected areas by militias and refugees in Eastern DRC.
© Riccardo Pravettoni / UNEP-Grid-Arendal Sources: UNOCHA, series of maps; The Woods Hole Research Center, UNFCCC-COP, Reducing Co2 Emissions from Deforestation And Degrada- tion in The Democratic Republic of Congo: A First Look, 2007; Institut Géographique National congolaise; Global Witness, “Faced with a gun, what can you do?”, 2009; The Guardian press release.

What is WWF doing?

WWF's African Great Apes Programme is engaged in a number of conservation measures to ensure the survival of all gorilla populations.

Efforts to protect the eastern lowland gorilla are challenging after years of warfare and civil unrest. Our work includes:
  • Reducing the threat of poaching and human encroachment in Kahuzi-Biega National Park. We are helping to fund and equip anti-poaching patrols of the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN), which are now able to protect parts of the park previously affected by illegal mining and poaching. Park staff are also monitoring more than 80 gorillas belonging to 7 family groups.
     
  • Helping to develop a management plan for the Itombwe Massif, a currently unprotected area south of Kahuzi-Biega, which is thought to have a sizable population of eastern lowland gorillas.
     
» WWF's work to save gorillas
» WWF African Great Apes Programme
» More on work in the Congo Basin

Priority species

Gorillas and other great apes are a WWF priority species. WWF treats priority species as one of the most ecologically, economically and/or culturally important species on our planet. As such, we are working to ensure all great apes can live and thrive in their natural habitats.

How you can help

  • Buy sustainable wood. By purchasing FSC-certified forest products, consumers, retailers, traders, and manufacturers help protect gorilla habitat by encouraging sustainable forestry and limiting illegal logging. Without the FSC label, your timber may well stem from illegal or controversial sources in central Africa.
     
  • Donate to WWF to help support our great ape conservation work.
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  • Eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri), Silverback male. Range: Eastern lowland areas ... / ©: Martin Harvey / WWF-Canon
  • Scientific classification

    Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Mammalia
    Order: Primates
    Family: Hominidae
    Genus: Gorilla
    Species: G. beringei
    Subspecies: G. b. graueri

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