First, some gorilla facts. Are gorillas considered apes or monkeys? Gosh, is there a difference?
A GORILLA IS AN APE
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.
They all live in Central Africa mainly in groups of 5 to 50 members. So what is a group of gorillas called? A troop! Each troop generally includes a silverback (the old guy with a silver streak) and a number of females with their young.
HOW MANY SPECIES OF GORILLA?
And finally, there are 2 species, Eastern and Western gorillas with 4 subspecies. All but the mountain gorilla are classified as critically endangered by the IUCN. This means they are likely to become extinct, especially without protection from humans. On the good news front, mountain gorillas were reclassified as endangered in late 2018 as a result of massive conservation efforts.
So if you see a gorilla in a zoo, what kind is it? Well, it is a western lowland.
WHAT ARE THE THREATS TO GORILLAS?
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) negatively impacts them. Even armed conflict between humans (with gorillas caught in the middle) can cause the population to dramatically decline. Poaching for bushmeat also kills gorillas.
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 experience with these magnificent animals is through zoos. From these encounters, Dale has carved 3 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 the meantime, Dale has just finished a mountain gorilla sculpture. We are looking to find him a proper home to be used for conservation. If you have any ideas, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
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. But while we realize most people can’t travel to see them, you can learn more about gorillas and educate others.
Recycle your cell phone and other electronics. Buy sustainable wood that is not illegally logged from the gorilla’s habitat. Donate to and support zoos that participate in the conservation of this amazing animal.