What is Your Favorite Animal?
First, are gorillas considered apes or monkeys? Gosh, is there a difference? So many gorilla facts to learn!
Well, almost all monkeys have tails. Apes do not have tails. Since gorillas don’t have tails (this is starting to feel like a math problem), they are classified as apes. Other apes include orangutans, chimpanzees, bili apes and bonobos.
Sadly, there are only an estimated 100,000 gorillas left in the world. Gorillas are the world’s largest primate. Closely related to humans, they share 98% of our human DNA. And they all live in Africa mainly in troops (the name for a group of gorillas) of 5 to 50 members. Each troop generally includes a silverback, an adult dominant male with a silver streak across its back, along with a number of females and their young.
And finally, all four species are classified as endangered by the IUCN. This means they are likely to become extinct, especially without protection from humans. Furthermore, mountain gorillas and the eastern lowland gorillas are now classified as critically endangered. But how did this happen?
The threats to gorillas are numerous. Loss of habitat from mining, timber harvesting, and agriculture are reducing their home sites. Also, the spread of infectious diseases (some from humans) have negatively impacted them. Even armed conflict (as in wars) between humans (with gorillas caught in the middle) have caused the population to dramatically decline along with poaching.
Incredibly, your cell phone and other electronics contribute to the gorillas dwindling numbers. My cell phone? Almost all electronics contain a mineral called coltan which is primarily mined in central Africa. In order to mine coltan, large parts of the gorilla’s habitat are destroyed. Wow, we didn’t know that!
Our Experience with Gorillas
Our only direct experiences with these magnificent animals is through zoos. From these encounters, Dale was inspired to carve 2 gorilla sculptures to better understand both the differences and similarities with humans. “Enigma” is the head of a male gorilla. “A Watchful Eye” is an emerging sculpture of another male. In order to see them in the wild, we are planning a photo safari to Africa within the next 2 years and we can’t wait!
What Can We Do?
If you can afford it, go see them in Africa. Gorilla tourism employs thousands of local residents and helps support conservation. And while most people can’t personally travel to see them, you can learn more about gorillas and educate others.
Recycle your cell phone and other electronics. Buy sustainable wood which is not illegally logged from the gorilla’s habitat. Donate to and support zoos that participate in the conservation of this amazing animal.