Western Lowland Gorilla | WWF

Western Lowland Gorilla

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Western lowland gorillas serve an important reproductive function within the forest ecosystem, allowing the dispersal and germination of seeds from the numerous fruit trees they consume. Dzanga-Sangha, Central African Republic.
© Chloe Cipolletta
The western lowland gorilla is the most numerous and widespread of all gorilla subspecies. Populations can be found in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of Congo. Their exact numbers are not known because they inhabit some of the most dense and remote rainforests in Africa. 

Western lowland gorillas can be distinguished from other gorilla subspecies by their slightly smaller size, their brown-grey coats and auburn chests. They also have wider skulls with more pronounced brow ridges and smaller ears.

Large numbers have not protected the western lowland gorilla from decline. Because of poaching and disease, the gorilla’s numbers have declined by more than 60% over the last 20 to 25 years. Even if all of the threats to western lowland gorillas were removed, scientists calculate that the population would require some 75 years to recover.


What we do

DEVOLOPING ECOTOURISM


WWF has helped to develop opportunities for tourism in the Gamba Protected Areas Complex of Gabon and the Dzanga-Sangha Protected Areas in the Central African Republic and is pursuing other opportunities in places such as Campo Ma’an and Lobeke National Parks in Cameroon. Through these programs, tourists are able to see western lowland gorillas in their natural habitat, while local communities benefit from programs for rural development and sustainable natural resource use.
 

PROMOTING SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT


Unsustainable logging practices, commercial hunting and fishing, and oil and gas development threaten the western lowland gorilla across its range. WWF and its partners are working to establish a network of protected areas across the Congo Basin and are promoting development of logging and mining industries that are well managed both ecologically and socially.
 

SPECIES QUICK FACTS

  • STATUS
    Critically Endangered
  • POPULATION
    Unknown
  • SCIENTIFIC NAME
    Gorilla gorilla gorilla
  • HEIGHT
    4 to 5 ½ feet when standing on two feet
  • WEIGHT
    up to 440 pounds

THREATS

Poaching: the hunting and killing of gorillas is illegal but still the animals are killed for bushmeat or during the capture of baby gorillas for pets.

Disease: Central Africa is home to not only gorillas, but also the deadly Ebola virus. Ebola has caused a number of massive gorilla and chimpanzee die-offs in the remote forests at the heart of the primates’ ranges.

'HABITUATING' GORILLAS IN DZANGA-SANGHA

One of the few places where humans can see western lowland gorillas in the wild is the Dzanga-Sangha Protected Areas in the Central African Republic. Opportunities for gorilla viewing are so rare in part because it takes three or more years of careful and patient gorilla tracking and following to habituate the animals to the presence of humans.

WWF has long worked with local BaAka trackers as part of the habituation program, capitalizing on their knowledge of their forest homeland and their ability to locate the gorillas even when traces of the animals are elusive. Tourism money is a key part of forest and gorilla protection in this region. 40% of the money from park entry fees at Dzanga Sangha, for example, is dedicated to programs in the local community that promote rural development and sustainable use of natural resources
© Chloé Cipolletta © © Martin HARVEY / WWF © Chloé Cipolletta © © Michelle Klainova © © Chloé Cippoletta