Gorilla species in Africa

Biological Gorilla Species in Africa; 4 Types of Gorillas, Facts & Photos

There are two types of gorilla species in Africa namely the Eastern gorilla specie (Gorilla beringei) and the western gorilla specie (gorilla gorilla).

The two gorilla species are further subdivided to make to make four subspecies. The western gorilla comprises of the Cross River Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla Diehli)and  the western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla ).

The eastern gorilla comprises of the mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) and the Eastern lowland Gorilla(Gorilla Beringei Graueri).

Gorilla Species in Africa

The Eastern lowland gorilla generally referred to as Grauer’s gorilla is the largest of them all across the world, inhabiting the Albertine Rift forests of Virunga volcanoes, found in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic republic of Congo.

The western low land gorillas lives in countries of the central west Africa.

The Four Gorilla Sub-species in Africa:

The Western Lowland Gorillas;

Smaller in size but in large numbers compared to other gorilla species in Africa with approximately 350,000 left in the wild.

Where to to find Western Lowland Gorillas?

They occupy forests of central and west African countries, that’s Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Gabon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo and Gabon.

Physical Characteristics of Western Lowland Gorillas.

They are larger than eastern low land gorillas and smaller than mountain gorillas. A Western Silverback stands about 5.6-5.9 feet(1.7m to 1.8m) and weighs about 300-500 pounds (136-227 kilograms).

They have a smaller hairless blackface with pronounced brow ridges, a broad flat nose, with lips protruding slightly.

females are  smaller weighing about 68 to 113 kilograms, with a height of 1.2 to 1.5 meters tall.

They are characterized with reddish/greyish making them look very different from the two subspecies of eastern gorillas.

Western Lowland Gorillas

They primarily feed on leaves, fruits, vegetation, stems and occasionally insects like ants and termites.

They are social, like hanging out, feeding with other groups of gorilla species although they are a lot more than them.

Today, their population is documented to have reduced by 60% in the past 25 years with their greatest threat being human species and Ebola virus.

For-example, in 2003 Ebola claimed lives of approximately 30% of their population. Western gorillas are sighted in game reserves and zoos of west and central Africa.

Cross River Gorillas

Cross River Gorillas , recognized as a distinct gorilla subspecies and listed among the most endangered species in 2006 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

 There are approximately 300 of them left in the wild  spread out in nine isolated areas. 

There habitats is in close contact with human activities, exposing it to encroachment, tearing their connection and reducing their survival.

where to find Cross River Gorillas?

They are found in a small region  between the border of Nigeria and Cameroon, specifically in the Cross River region after which they are named.

They are of the same size and slightly of the same color as the western lowland gorillas.

cross river gorilla

Their frequent  contacts with humans, watching them destroy their habitats and poaching their fellows made them very aggressive. 

For instance, they were observed throwing branches and grasses when they came in close contact with them and hence they became very difficult to study.

They have not yet been opened up for gorilla tourism, they are not even sighted anywhere in the zoos.

 However,  the International Wildlife Conservation, together with the governments of Cameroon and Nigeria, have rose up against all the encroachments on the habitats of these primate species to ensure their conservancy.

The WWF has also come out, working with respective governments ,practicing reforestation in regions where there is illegal farming and other human activities taking place like logging that led to separation of gorilla families.

Local communities in close distance with gorilla habitats have been  sensitized about the importance of reserving nature, in particular the advantages of  primates like gorillas to the ecosystem.

Eastern Lowland Gorillas

Eastern lowland gorillas are sighted in  Kahuzi-Biega National Parks, Odzala-Kokoua National Park, Maiko National Park and areas around the Itombwe Massif in the Eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are the second largest of the gorilla subspecies.

They featured with a big muscular body with shorter fur, larger hands and a short muzzle.

eastern lowland gorilla

conservation challenges of Eastern Lowland gorilla species in Africa;

Despite their formidable presence, eastern lowland gorillas are  faced with a number of threats that are jeopardizing survivals in their habitats.

They are losing their natural habitats to logging, mining, and agricultural expansions leading to shortening of their habitat area from 81000m2 to 5,600m2.

Additionally, poaching is also posing severe risks to their populations, reducing their numbers day in day out. 

However, conservation efforts are in the pipeline to protect these gentle giants.

Different organizations have put efforts together to conserve these gentle giants.

They have established protected areas, promoted sustainable land use practices and engaged local communities in conservation initiatives.

They have been listed among the critically endangered gorilla species with their number today approximately adding up to 3,800 gorillas left in the wild.

Mountain Gorillas

Mountain Gorillas only sighted in specific regions of Uganda, Rwanda and in the Virunga regions of Democratic Republic of Congo. They prefer leaving on the high altitudes of about 8,000 to 12,000feet on mountain slopes.

Physical characteristics of Mountain gorillas

They are the largest of them all, distinguished by their strongly built bodies and unique adaptations influenced by their high-altitude habitats.

Matured adult males  are known as silverback because of their distinctive silvery fur that develops on the backs with aging.

A matured silverback weighs about 300-490pounds(135-220Kg), with a height of 5.5 to 6feet when upright.

Females are smaller usually weighing between 150-215pounds/70 to 98 kilograms with a height of 4-5feet when standing upright.

They are featured with thick fur which helps them to survive in the cold environment of their mountainous habitats.

Mountain gorilla

Their fur is much denser and very dark compared to that of other gorilla species.

Their strongly built stocked body is featured with a broad chest, muscular arms and legs that enables them to navigate through the rugged terrains of their habitats.

They are the second most endangered gorilla species  documented to have remained about 1000  in the wild according to the results from the census of 2018.

A group of a mountain gorillas approximately adds up to 30 members, led by a dominant silver back.

Each group always has at least 1 silverback. Mountain gorilla is one of  the gorilla species that is well researched by zoologists inclusive of the famous Dian Fosse.

Habitat and Distribution of Mountain Gorilla species in Africa;

Mountain gorillas are found within the Virunga Mountains, which span the borders of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The Virunga Mountains is part of the Albertine Rift, comprising of  national parks namely Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, holding the largest groups of mountain gorillas compared to all the other parks.

Mgahinga Gorilla National park in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Virunga National Park in the D.R.Congo.

 Virunga Mountains are characterized by dense, mist-covered tropical rain forests, steep slopes, and a rich biodiversity.

Mountain gorillas often inhabit altitudes ranging from 2,400 to 4,000 meters and most times are found on low altitudes during wet seasons.

They mainly diet on  leaves, shoots, stems, and bark, occasional insects, with a particular preference for bamboo.

Conservation Challenges of Mountain gorillas;

They face Habitat losses to agricultural activities, deforestation, and human settlement encroachments.  Poaching, though reduced now claimed lives of many gorillas especially when they fall for traps that had been set to catch other wildlife.

Because of the close genetic relationship between gorillas and humans, various human diseases like Ebola and outbreak of respiratory infections like Corona Virus is a great impact to their population.

Despite those challenges, conservation bodies from governments of those countries have put in a lot of efforts to ensure that these species get what they deserve.

This can be witnessed with the increase in there population from 250 in the 1980s to over 1,000 today.

Eastern Gorillas vs. Western Gorillas: Similarities and Differences

Although these giant primate species share a lot in common, they also exhibit distinct differences reflecting their adaptation depending on there natural habitats.

Similarities between Eastern and Western Gorillas;

They both have same body structures, fully stocked, characterized with broad chest, strongly built muscles and powerful limbs with  Males are literally larger than females.

They both form gorilla family groups which includes more of females and led by a dominant male.

The family is always very stable with strong  bonds between the members.

They both exhibit the same habitat behavior like nest building everyday, knuckle-walking and same vocalizations of communication.

All gorilla species are herbivores feeding mainly on fruits, tree barks, stems, leaves and insects. They adjust their deities depending on seasonal availability as well as their specific habitats.

Differences  between Easter Gorillas and Western Gorillas;

Geographical Distribution:

Eastern Gorillas are Found in the dense  forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda.

They prefer living in high-altitude areas such as the Virunga Mountains and the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Western Gorillas  prefer  lowlands and are found in low tropical forests and swamps of West and Central Africa.

They are found in  countries like Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gabon, Republic of Congo, and Equatorial Guinea.

Gorilla Subspecies with there respective Habitats;

Mountain Gorillas (Eastern); Inhabit high-altitude dense tropical forests between 8,000 and 13,000 feet (2,400 – 4,000 meters). Their thick long fur is an adaptation to the cold climate in their habitats.

Eastern Lowland Gorillas (Eastern); Inhabit lowland tropical forests, where they have adapted to a different set of environmental conditions compared to their mountain counterparts.

Western Lowland Gorillas (Western); Found in dense, swampy tropical forests at lower altitudes, making them more arboreal and frugivorous.

Cross River Gorillas (Western); Occupy a small area along the Cross River between the borders of Nigeria and Cameroon, in rugged, hilly terrains.

Physical Appearance of Eastern gorillas Vs. Western gorillas

Eastern Gorillas are generally larger featured with darker and thicker fur. Mountain gorillas have the thickest fur among all gorilla subspecies.

Western Gorillas are Slightly smaller, with shorter and lighter greyish fur. They tend to have a more prominent brow ridge and a slightly narrower face.