Western Lowland Gorilla Gorilla gorilla

Western Lowland Gorilla Gorilla gorilla

Western Lowland Gorilla Gorilla gorilla

Critically Endangered

Angola (Cabinda); Cameroon; Central African Republic; Congo; Equatorial Guinea (Equatorial Guinea (mainland)); Gabon; Nigeria

Habitat loss is emerging as a major threat to Western Gorillas. Other threats include disease and poaching. As oil-palm plantations in Asia reach capacity, Africa is becoming the new frontier for this crop, offering excellent economic prospects in countries with appropriate rainfall, soil and temperatures (Rival and Lavang 2014). Unfortunately, such areas coincide with good Gorilla habitat: 73.8% of the Western Lowland Gorilla’s range is considered suitable for oil palm (Wich et al. 2014).

IUCN red list

Western Lowland Gorillas are well-loved apes, #criticallyendangered by #deforestation for #palmoil #cocoa #timber #meat in #Congo #Nigeria #Cameroon and #poaching. Help them by joining the #Boycott4Wildlife on #deforestation

Western Lowland Gorillas are found in Angola (Cabinda enclave), Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), mainland Equatorial Guinea (Rio Muni), Gabon, Nigeria and Republic of Congo. Until recently, the core population had an almost continuous distribution from southern CAR to the Congo River and west to the coast. Rivers are the primary geographic barrier for this taxon, followed by habitat fragmentation: the two subspecies are separated by a major river (the Sanaga), and Western Lowland Gorillas are divided into subpopulations by other major rivers in the region (Anthony et al. 2007, Fünfstück et al. 2014, Fünfstück and Vigilant 2015).

The northwestern limit of the western lowland subspecies distribution is the Sanaga River in Cameroon; the northern limit is the forest-savanna boundary to a maximum of roughly 6°N; the eastern limit is the Ubangi River; the Congo River south of its confluence with the Ubangi then becomes the southeastern and southern limits all the way to the coast. Small outlying populations of the Cross River subspecies remain on the Nigeria-Cameroon border at the headwaters of the Cross River and in the proposed Ebo National Park in Cameroon. Most Western Gorillas are found below 500 m asl, but those living on mountains occasionally reach elevations of 1,900 m asl.

Western Gorillas are diurnal and semi-terrestrial. They build nests to sleep in every night, usually on the ground but sometimes in trees. They are social and live in stable, cohesive groups composed of one “silverback” adult male, several adult females and their offspring. Gorillas are not territorial and group ranges overlap extensively.

Western Lowland Gorillas occur in both swamp and lowland forests throughout Western Equatorial Africa. They are especially common where ground vegetation is dominated by monocotyledonous plants. Their staple foods are leaves and shoots of the Marantaceae family, whereas fruit consumption varies greatly between seasons (Rogers et al. 2004). Some populations spend hours feeding on aquatic herbs in swamps. Social ants and termites are the only animal matter deliberately eaten. Group size averages 10, but is occasionally over 20 individuals, and annual home ranges are usually 10–25 km² (Williamson and Butynski 2013).

Male Western Gorillas take 18 years to reach full maturity, whereas females take around 10 years. Their length of the reproductive cycle is unknown. Infant mortality up to three years of age is 22–65%. Infants suckle for 4–5 years, causing lactational amenorrhea in the mother. Interbirth intervals are 4–6 years. Western Gorillas appear to reproduce more slowly than Eastern Gorillas (G. beringei). The maximum length of their lives is unknown but likely to be around 40 years. Generation time is estimated to be 22 years.

The recent expansion of industrial-scale mineral extraction and the creation of open-pit mines are of great concern (Edwards et al. 2014, Lanjouw 2014), and also lead to the establishment of development corridors, which can be several kilometres wide and add to areas of “lost forest” (Laurance et al. 2015). There is a disconnect between the various bodies responsible for land-use planning in the realms of conservation, mining and agriculture in all Western Gorilla range states except Gabon. Consequently, there is increasing competition for land between long-term conservation needs and immediate financial gain as governments explore the potential of clearing natural habitat in favour of economic development. Without careful and immediate land-use planning that involves cooperation between the government bodies responsible for protected areas and wildlife on one hand, and economic and agricultural development on the other, large areas of Western Lowland Gorilla habitat could be cleared within a few decades.

You can support this beautiful animal

Ape Action Africa

PASA Primates

Virunga National Park

Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund

Further Information


Maisels, F., Bergl, R.A. & Williamson, E.A. 2018. Gorilla gorilla (amended version of 2016 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T9404A136250858. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T9404A136250858.en. Downloaded on 06 June 2021.

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Published by Palm Oil Detectives

Hi, I’m Palm Oil Detective’s Editor in Chief. Palm Oil Detectives is partly a consumer website about palm oil in products and partly an online community for writers, scientists, conservationists, artists and musicians to showcase their work and express their love for endangered species. I have a strong voice for creatures great and small threatened by deforestation. With our collective power we can shift the greed of the retail and industrial agriculture sectors and through strong campaigning we can stop them cutting down forests. Be bold! Be courageous! Join the #Boycott4Wildlife and stand up for the animals with your supermarket choices

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