Did You Know?
First, are gorillas considered apes or monkeys? And what exactly is the difference? So many gorilla facts to learn! Well, almost all monkeys have tails whereas there are no apes which have tails. Since gorillas do not have a tail, they are classified as apes. They are one of four species of great ape which also includes orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos.
Sadly, there are only an estimated 100,000 left in the world. Gorillas are the world’s largest primate and closely related to humans, sharing 98% of the human DNA. And they all live in Africa mainly in troups (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. 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. Poaching, loss of habitat from mining, timber harvesting and agriculture, and 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. Incredibly, your cell phone and other electronics contribute to the gorillas dwindling numbers. My cell phone? Almost all electronics have a mineral called coltan which is primarily mined in central Africa. In order to mine coltan, large parts of the gorilla’s habitat is destroyed.
Our Experience with Gorillas
Our only direct experiences with these magnificent animals is through zoos. From these experiences, Dale was inspired to carve 2 gorilla sculptures to better understand both the differences and similarities with humans. “Enigma“, the head of a male gorilla and “A Watchful Eye“, an emerging sculpture of another male. In order to see them in the wild, we are planning a photo safari to Rwanda within the next 2 years and we can’t wait!
What Can We Do?
If you can afford it, go see them in Rwanda, Uganda or the DR Congo. Gorilla tourism employs thousands of local residents and helps support conservation and preservation. 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 worthy charities (check Charity Navigator or other charity rating services). And support zoos that participate in the conservation of this amazing animal.