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Gorilla Habitat

Aparna Jadhav
Being closely related to humans, gorillas have always been a subject of interest for research studies. Read more to know about the kind of environment they inhabit.
Gorillas are apes that belong to the genus Gorilla and are the largest extant primates. They are also known are 'silverbacks' in reference to the silvery-white hair present on their back.

Based on their range and habitat, there are two subspecies of gorillas - Western gorilla and Eastern gorilla; the species are separated by the Congo river and its tributaries. The distribution of these two species is depicted in the following image.

Eastern and Western Gorilla Habitat

Range and Habitat of Western Gorilla

» The western gorilla inhabits the western part of Central Africa. These mammals are further divided into two subspecies - Western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli).
» The Western gorilla prefers elevated regions of up to 1600 m above mean sea level; living in montane areas and swamp forests.
» Western lowland gorillas, as the name suggests, inhabit the lowland forest areas with elevations up to 1600 m.
» The habitat also influences their diet, with the staple food of Western lowland gorillas being shoots, leaves, fruits, and pith.
» From all the gorilla subspecies, the Western lowland gorilla is the most widespread; found in countries such as Cameroon, Central African Republic, Angola, Congo, Guinea, and Gabon.
» Cross River gorillas live in lower elevated regions (150 m - 1600 m), like the submontane forests.
» In bamboo forests they are usually observed in elevated areas ranging between 2,500 - 3000 m whereas in montane forests, the elevated height falls between 1500 - 3500 m.
» Cross River gorillas are found in the southeastern parts of Nigeria and western Cameroon.
» The Western gorilla is a part of the IUCN list of critically endangered species.

Range and Habitat of Eastern Gorilla

» They live in the eastern region of Central Africa. The Eastern gorilla is divided into the - Mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) and Eastern lowland or Grauer's gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri).
» Mountain gorillas reside in elevated areas of tropical and subtropical forests. The eastern lowland gorillas live in mountainous bamboo forests with an elevation between 600-3308 m.
» Both subspecies inhabit the forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Loss of Habitat

» Already confined to the forests of Central Africa, the habitat and hence the population of gorillas has been on a decline for a long time.
» The people living in areas around the natural habitat of gorillas, are increasingly clearing off forest lands for the purpose of agriculture.
» Central Africa relies heavily on their export of timber, which is available in abundance in the rainforests of the Congo.
» A large portion of the forest - home to the gorillas - has been leased to several logging companies, leading to further destruction of their habitat.
» Moreover, compared to their declining population, gorillas reproduce at a far slower rate. With females giving birth to one baby per 4 to 5 years, the mortality rate has exceeded the birthrate.
The depleting habitat is thus affecting the population of gorillas to a large extent. Ceasing the act of deforestation in such zones, will make a huge difference for the survival of these primates. Conscious efforts by several organizations have proved to be effective so far; do your bit by helping them, today.