Western lowland gorilla
Western lowland gorilla; Gorille occidental de plaine (Fr); Gorilla (Sp)
Gorilla gorilla gorilla
Lowland tropical forests of central Africa
Possibly 100,000 individuals
Colour: Brownish-grey coat with a red or auburn crest. Adult males have a patch of whitish hair that extends onto the thighs, grading into the black body color.
The western lowland gorilla occurs in the rainforests of central Africa, specifically in lowland forest and swamp forest from sea level to about 1,600m.
The western lowland gorilla has the smallest family groups of all gorillas, averaging 4-8 members.
Gorillas are mainly herbivorous; their staple foods are pith, shoots and leaves. Fruits are also an important component of western lowland gorillas’ diet and are consumed according to their seasonal availability. Over 100 fruit species have been recorded in their diet.
In drier months, when fruits are scarce, gorillas supplement their diet with leaves, pith, shoots and bark. They have also been know to eat termites and weaver ants.
No accurate estimates of their numbers are possible, as these elusive apes inhabit some of Africa’s densest and most remote rainforests. However, the total population is thought to number up to 100,000 individuals.
In some areas they occur in surprisingly high densities – like in remote swamps or areas with dense leafy growth where they’ve been recorded at exceptionally high densities of almost 10 individuals per square kilometer.
The forests of Congo (Brazzaville) are currently considered to harbour the major population of western lowland gorillas, which are protected by the remoteness of the large, swampy forest areas.
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests
Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo, Angola (Cabinda)
Congolian Coastal Forests, Western Congo Basin Moist Forests
Hunting is the main threat to western lowland gorillas. Gorillas are sought after as food (bushmeat) and pets, and their body parts are used in medicine and as magical charms.
The impact of hunting on gorilla population has proven to be dramatic. In North East Congo, it has been estimated that approximately 5% of gorillas are killed by hunters each year.
Despite national and international laws prohibit the hunting and capture of gorillas throughout their range, rampant corruption in the wildlife legal system weakens the enforcement of existing legislation.
Habitat loss and degradation
Timber is a major export in Central Africa. Vast areas of rainforest in the western lowland gorilla's habitat in the Congo Basin have been destroyed or leased out to European and Asian logging companies.
The increase in timber extraction and the opening of once remote forest areas, together with the easy transport provided by logging vehicles to distant markets, have also facilitated the bushmeat trade. The expansion of agriculture also poses a threat, particularly the growth in oil palm plantations.
Central Africa, the home of western lowland gorillas, has been dramatically affected by Ebola hemorrhagic fever. Some scientists estimate that Ebola has killed about one-third of the wild gorilla population here, mainly western lowland gorillas. Evidence suggests that the virus may still be moving through the Congo Basin, placing a large gorilla population at risk.
Specific work for western lowland gorillas focuses on the Sangha Tri-National collaboration, a trans-border initiative covering 36,000km² of protected areas: the Dzanga Sangha Protected Area complex in the Central African Republic, neighboring Nouabale-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo, and Lobeke National Park in Cameroon.
Supported by the World Bank/WWF alliance, WCS, GTZ, CARPE (USAID) and the French Cooperation, the initiative aims to enhance the conservation efforts among the three countries.
Examples of projects include:
- Strengthening protected areas that harbor western lowland gorillas and other threatened species in the Republic of Congo.
- Supporting the gorilla tracking program in the Dzanga Sangha Protected Area complex.
- Promoting sustainable development of the Dzanga Sangha Protected Area complex, including through developing ecotourism and a multiple-use reserve, where human activities and forest exploitation are controlled.
- Adapting the human Ebola vaccine to help save gorillas
» WWF's work to save gorillas
» WWF African Great Apes Programme
» Work in the Dzanga Sangha Protected Area complex
» Work in the Congo Basin
- Visit the gorillas! Money earned through gorilla tourism contributes significantly to the conservation of the species – providing funds for conservation projects and creating jobs and bringing other benefits to local communities living near gorillas. To visit the gorillas of Dzanga-Sangha in Central African Republic, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Give a gift! Buy a "Gorilla's Paradise" WWF gift and help support the Gamba Complex of protected areas in Gabon – home to western lowland gorillas as well as hippos, elephants and much more.
- 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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