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Western Lowland Gorilla: Why Is It Endangered?

Western Lowland Gorillas are Western Africa’s most endangered great ape. They have been hunted for their meat and killed for the bushmeat trade. Western Lowlands Gorillas have been driven from most of their natural habitat in Western Africa in the last fifteen years.

  • Status: Critically endangered 
  • Known As: Western Lowland Gorilla.
  • Estimated numbers left in the wild: Probably more than 125,000 (estimates are difficult)

Western Lowland Gorillas are also being threatened by an Ebola outbreak, which is killing these species of gorillas at a rapid pace. They need help, and hopefully, one day, they will be successfully brought back to a thriving population in the wild.


Western Lowland Gorilla in a Zoo

Western Lowland Gorillas are primates in Western Africa, with approximately 100,000 being in the wild.

Western Lowlands Gorillas have been hunted for their meat and killed for the bushmeat trade. These gorillas need help, and hopefully, they will be successfully brought back to thrive as a population in the wild.

Anatomy and Appearance

Gorilla sitting next to a tree

These species are the largest of the four gorilla subspecies. They have black fur, except for their hands, feet, and faces, which are all brown or light brown. The species have reddish-brown hair on their heads. They are considered Endangered Species due to commercial hunting and the Ebola virus.

Western lowland gorillas are the smallest gorilla subspecies but are still large, weighing 68 to 181 kilograms. Males are significantly larger than females and stand 1.2 to 1.8 meters tall when upright, though they usually move about on all fours. Their hands are equipped with special callouses, making the classic gorilla “knuckle-walking” easier.

Related Resources: Types of Monkeys Around The World


A majestic western lowland gorilla in its natural habitat.

Gorilla populations of this species are concentrated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Central African Republic, Angola, and Cameroon.

These apes favor swamp forests, primary and secondary forests, and montane forests, making accurate estimates of their population very difficult. However, it also puts some animals out of the easy reach of poachers.


southeast asian jungle scenery with lush vegetation and diverse wildlife

Western lowland gorillas live in a variety of habitats, including dense rainforests, swamp forests, and montane forests. These animals prefer to live in areas with plenty of dense covers from which to forage for food. They have also lived in secondary forests, agricultural land, and disturbed habitats.

Diet and Nutrition

Bananas and peeled banana placed on a table

They are herbivores, which means they eat only plants. They eat mainly fruits, leaves, flowers, and bark. These gorillas spend most of their day in trees, where they can find fruit, leaves, and shoots to eat. They also eat smaller amounts of understory vegetation and fungi when given the opportunity.

Their varied diet allows them to get the nutrients they need. The gorillas can digest a variety of foods due to their high level of stomach bacteria. These animals also consume a lot of fiber, which helps them stay healthy. Gorillas are important for seed dispersal in their habitat.

Mating Habits

Mother gorilla and baby gorilla in the wild

These species are polygamous and have a harem-style mating system. Adult males will mate with several adult females, and female gorillas will mate with multiple males.

They typically have one offspring every two to four years. Infants will stay with their mothers for up to six years. Gorillas are sexually mature at around eight years old. Gorillas build temporary leaf nests for shelter and display high intelligence.

Young gorillas ride on their mothers’ backs for several years before achieving greater independence. Sexual maturity is not reached until age ten, and gorillas reproduce slowly, increasing their vulnerability to population pressures.

Behavior and Family structure

Eastern lowland gorilla

Western gorillas can climb trees, but they usually are in villages or troops of at least 30 individuals. Troops are led by an older dominant man, who is sometimes known as Silverback due to his otherwise dark hair.

In addition, the troop includes numerous young men and some adult females. Leaders organize troop activities, including eating, nestling on leaves, or moving around the home range.

Although Gorillas are upright, they prefer to travel with their hands up and down with their knuckles and feet. The leader of the troops will demonstrate his strength by challenging other adult male gorillas.

Gorilla troops have homes ranging from 2 square kilometers to 40 square kilometers but do not defend these areas from other groups of gorillas.

The apes move around their home range as their alpha male leader chooses, eating fruit, leaves, shoots, tree bark and pulp, bamboo, and wild celery. Insects are sometimes eaten as a supplement to this vegetarian diet.

Gorillas are social animals but live in smaller family groups than other wild gorillas, with 4 to 8 individuals making up a typical troop. However, there can be as many as 30 gorillas in a single troop.

They move about on the ground most of the time despite their ability to climb since their weight makes them more comfortable on the forest floor.

A group is led by a “silverback” male, named for the silvery appearance of the hair on the back of an older male gorilla, and contains a few young males as well as female gorillas and juveniles.

See Related: Three-Letter Animals

Role in the Ecosystems

Color Black Gorilla

Western lowland gorillas play an important role in their ecosystems. They are fruit eaters and help disperse the seeds of their fruits. These apes also eat leaves, flowers, and insects. They are important for the health of their ecosystems because they help maintain the balance of plant life.

When western gorillas become extinct, the surrounding ecosystems will change dramatically. The gorillas are an endangered species, so without them, the surroundings could reduce biodiversity and lead to a lack of plant life in Western Africa.

Western lowland gorillas play an important role in their habitats since they eat fruits and leaves from trees and shrubs, which means that when Western lowlands gorillas die out, there will not be much resistance against invasive species such as wild pigs and this could also lead to a lack in plant life.

Western Lowland Gorilla Facts

Adult Male Western Lowland Gorilla

Here are some interesting facts about Western Lowland Gorilla.

  • They are the largest of all gorilla subspecies.
  • The species have wider noses and smaller ears compared to other gorilla subspecies.
  • Western lowlands gorillas also have larger bodies overall in comparison to their height.
  • Their short black coats can distinguish them.
  • They have silver-white hair around their ankles and wrists.
  • These species are more light brown than the other gorilla subspecies.
  • Lowland gorillas can be found with reddish-brown hair that covers parts of their arms.
  • They have jet-black skin with white or yellowish knuckles.
  • These gorillas have a very wide range of habitats.
  • They are found in Cameroon, Angola, Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, and parts of Nigeria.
  • Western Lowland Gorillas have a diet consisting of fruits. They also eat leaves and stems from plants.
  • Will consume their food waste and can occasionally be seen eating eggs from other animals such as birds.

Conservation Status

Western Lowland Gorilla Hanging on a Rope

Western Lowland Gorillas are listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. This is due to a number of threats that Western Lowland Gorillas face in the wild. Western lowland gorillas have had a long and complicated relationship with humans. Western gorillas are currently endangered because of the actions of humans.


Hunter and hunting dogs chasing in the wilderness

Western lowland gorillas face a double-pronged threat today from the growth of nearby human populations. One factor threatening these splendid apes is habitat loss as the thick jungle they depend on for food is cleared to make way for inefficient local agriculture.

The other, more direct threat is poaching, mostly for “bush meat.” Gorillas are considered a food source by many local people, and many are shot for eating purposes.

Due to heavy poaching, gorilla numbers have fallen by approximately 60% in the past two to three decades. Diseases, including the Ebola virus, also endanger gorillas.

Conservation efforts

Monkey's Hand

The western lowland gorilla focuses on many well-organized conservation efforts, yet its future remains uncertain. Wildlife management resources are being steadily developed to help conserve these apes.

Other critical conservation drives involve quickly and effectively finding viable alternative protein sources for local communities to reduce poaching for bushmeat.

Here are some of the conservation efforts that can help the gorillas

  • Reduce hunting pressure on Western Lowlands Gorillas
  • Increase overall population size
  • Stop Western lowland gorillas from contracting ebola
  • Provide Western Lowlands Gorilla with more natural habitat


Captive Monkey

The Aspinall Foundation

The Aspinall Foundation is a charity that was founded in the United Kingdom in 1983 by John Aspinall. The foundation’s goal is to protect endangered species from extinction.

The Aspinall Foundation works with the Republic of Congo and Gabon governments to reintroduce the Western Lowland Gorilla to the wild and combat poaching.

The Gorilla Organisation

The Gorilla Organisation is a London-based charity that runs innovative and award-winning projects in DR Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda to protect the different Gorilla species.

Wildlife Conservation Society

Wildlife Conservation Society was formed in 1895 to protect 25 percent of the world’s biodiversity by promoting the importance of protecting wildlife and their habitats. WCS has five zoos in New York.

See Related: Importance of Wildlife Conservation

Final Thoughts

Adult Male Western Lowland Gorilla

Western Lowlands Gorillas are critically endangered due to Western lowland gorillas being hunted for their meat and killed for the bushmeat trade. Western Lowland Gorilla also faces a double-pronged threat today from the growth of nearby human populations.

One factor threatening these splendid apes is habitat loss, as the thick jungle they depend on for food is cleared to make way for inefficient local agriculture.

The other, the more direct threat is poaching, mostly for “bush meat.” These factors have led Western Lowland Gorilla numbers to decline by approximately 60% in two decades.

Wildlife management resources are being steadily developed to help protect Western Lowlands Gorillas, but it may already be too late with this dire situation.

Organizations such as the Aspinall Foundation and the Gorilla Organisation are working to combat Western Lowlands Gorillas being hunted for their meat and killed for the bushmeat trade, which is a large threat.

If Western Lowland Gorillas continue to be hunted for their meat and killed, their population will decline, which will make Western Lowland Gorillas extinct in the wild.


What is a Western Lowlands Gorilla?

Western Lowlands Gorillas, also called Western Lowland Gorillas, are apes native to Western Africa. Western lowland gorillas have been hunted for their meat and killed for the bushmeat trade.

In the last fifteen years, Western Lowlands gorillas have been driven from most of their habitat in Western Africa due to illegal logging and civil war going on in Congo. They are currently considered endangered because Ebola is killing them at a rapid rate, too.

Is the Western Lowland Gorilla endangered?

The habitat of these gorilla species is being shrunk due to how Western lowland gorillas are hunted for their meat and killed for the bushmeat trade.

It is Western lowland gorillas are native to Western Africa. They are found in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and São Tomé and Príncipe. Western Lowlands Gorilla extinction is a serious concern, and adding to this is diseases such as Ebola, which threatens them even more.

What can help stop these threats?

Organizations such as The Aspinall Foundation have been working hard to combat western lowlands gorillas being hunted for their meat and killed to protect the bushmeat trade they provide people.

Some ways to help Western Lowland Gorilla conservation include supporting organizations that work to protect these lowland gorillas, such as the World Wildlife Fund. You can also donate money to help fund research and conservation initiatives for Western Lowland gorillas.

Additionally, you can spread awareness about the plight of Western Lowland gorillas and the threats they face. You can also boycott products made with rainforest wood, as this contributes to deforestation.

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