Mountain Gors Essay, Research Paper
Mountain gorillas are the most endangered of the gorilla species. Approximately 600 or
so remain. They are massive in size, with a short, thick trunk and broad chest and
shoulders. Its eyes are very small in proportion to its other features. Older males develop
longer heads, and are twice the size of females. The most severe threat to mountain
gorillas is habitat loss. The fertile volcanic soil of the Virunga Mountains is as highly
valued as farm land. Conservation programs have been set up in Rwanda, Uganda, and
Congo to lessen trespassing. However, it still poses a major problem. By nature, gorillas
are very shy and easy going, and seek no trouble. The only exception to this is if the
family group is threatened, the gorilla will bravely defend them. Family groups usually
consist of thirty or less members. At least one adult male, and a few females and
juveniles. Gorillas continually rove through their home ranges, which are about ten to
fifteen square miles. Females give birth at about ten years of age and will have more
offspring every three to four years. Males breed between twelve and fifteen years.
Females are able to conceive for only three days each month, and will only produce one
young. The baby is weaned at about three and a half years of age.
In Western Africa gorillas are hunted for meat or in vengeance for crop raiding.
In Eastern Africa they have been caught in snares and traps set for other animals.
Poachers have wiped out entire families in their attempts to capture infants for zoos, or
for their heads and hands which serve as trophies (African Wildlife Foundation, 1-3).
Humans and gorillas share a common ancestor. One did not evolve from the other, but
rather split evolutionary paths about ten million years ago. George Schaller, a gorilla
researcher describes this.
?No one who looks into a gorilla?s eyes–intelligent, gentle, vulnerable–can
remain unchanged, for the gap between ape and human vanishes; we know that
the gorilla still lives within us. Do gorillas also recognize this ancient
Mountain Gorillas inhabit 285 square miles of high-elevation rain forest in east-central
Africa. They are herbivores, their food sources grow abundantly in this cool, moist
mountain climate (Kasnoff, 2). Until recently their endangered status had begun to look
more hopeful. However, because of habitat loss, poaching, and civil war their status is
again looking very grim. They face a new threat, the effects and results of a civil war in
Rwanda in the 1990?s in which 500,000 people were killed and 750,000 are now living in
poverty on the borders of the gorillas? reserves. This has brought an abrupt end to gorilla
tourism, cutting off the much needed foreign money. Also, forests on the Zaire side are
being cut down for firewood in refugee camps. Mountain Gorillas future depends
heavily on whether a stable government can be restored and maintained in Rwanda. As
well as if they can house and feed its refugees without destroying the park (Kasnoff, 3).
This unceasing political unrest is interfering and undoing almost twenty years of
extraordinary conservation work. Beginning in the early 20th century, collectors and
hunters from Europe and the United States began to capture or kill mountain gorillas.
Carl Akeley of the American Museum of Natural History shot five gorillas in 1921. He
became fascinated with these animals and convinced the Belgium government, which
ruled Zaire at the time to establish Africa?s first national park for them in 1925. The
gorillas were well protected until about 1960 when civil war broke out and the park
protection disappeared. As stated previously, poachers set up snares that the gorillas
were caught in, they were also murdered for meat and parts. Heads and hands were sold
as souvenirs to tourists. Massive amounts of habitat was lost to agriculture. The
countries in which the gorillas live have some of the densest human populations in the
world. Any land that is not protected is farmed. The exploding population places
unyielding pressures on gorilla habitat. Dian Fossey, the American zoologist regularly
began patrolling the forest and removing snares set for animals in 1963. Gorillas often
lost a hand or a foot to infection from these traps. She was murdered for her good deeds
in 1985, undoubtedly by poachers (Kasnoff, 1-3).
Stephanie Hancock, who studies mountain gorillas shares her personal
experiences, and recent information on the mountain gorillas. Hancock visited with a
peaceful family of twenty-five mountain gorillas in the Virunga Mountains of Zaire in
1994. She describes it as the most wonderful memory she has. Much to her dismay, she
has learned of this recent information. On August 14th, the leader of the group, and an
adult female were shot to death, while trying to prevent the kidnapping of an infant. A
ranger of the Parc National des Virungas was hired by a private collector to capture a
young male gorilla. The ranger knew the silverback leader of the group very well, and
thought he could just seize the baby. As mentioned before, gorillas are very protective of
their families. The ranger obviously did not contemplate this enough beforehand. This
cost two magnificent endangered creatures their lives. Fortunately, the baby gorilla was
rescued from a truck at the Uganda border, and successfully returned to his family. If
there is not a male qualified to take over the role of the silverback the group may wander
apart aimlessly, at the mercy of the poachers. This places a serious threat on the entire
species? chances for survival. Recently, at least eight mountain gorilla deaths have been
recorded. This is a substantial loss in a population of about 600. On August 22nd
Zairian soldiers tried forcing some refugees back to Rwanda, but unfortunately forced
about 60,000 of them into the mountains to escape the repudiation. This further
increases the pressure on the gorillas? habitat. According to a study directed by the
United Nations, 18 square kilometers of forest has already been destroyed for firewood
purposes, and 78 square kilometers are badly damaged. deforestation and the invasion of
refugees in the National Park puts the gorillas at risk of being forced higher up the
mountains, where they may suffer respiratory problems. Another serious problem is the
drop in tourism that has resulted from the war and the refugee situation. The National
Parks get the majority of their revenues from the tourists who come to see the gorillas. If
the park cannot maintain a constant flow of income, it will be taken away from the
gorillas protection. If the park is not protected there will be no limits to the destruction
done to the mountain gorillas? only habitat on earth, which would inevitably lead to their
extinction. Visiting the mountain gorillas is the best way to reduce their predicament.
By doing this one would help guarantee their continued protection, and see what
wonderful creatures mountain gorillas are. Although going to Rwanda is not
recommended, you can still visit gorillas in Uganda or Zaire (Hancock, 1-2). The
Karisoke Research Groups is an organization dedicated to researching and bettering the
lives of mountain gorillas. Since September of 1998 the staff have been making weekly
trips to the Volcanoes National Park. The three research groups that they have been
studying are in good health, and there have been several new births, further increasing the
population. Hopefully more good news like this will continue in the near future
?Gorilla Haven will be a safe ?haven? and temporary holding facility for zoo
gorillas in need? (The Dewar Wildlife Trust, 1). They will also have schools and
universities hold educational programs on its property. Gorilla Haven is located on 275
acres in Northern Georgia?s Blue Ridge Mountains. The staff will word together to
ensure the survival, welfare, and genetic diversity of the captive gorilla population. Each
gorilla is placed into a stable family or social group. Since the early 1980?s there has
been an increase in male gorilla births at some zoos. Because of this, bachelor groups are
being formed in order to accommodate this increase. A Board of Directors is being
chosen to include a variety of individuals with professional and academic backgrounds.
Experienced gorilla keepers will give the gorillas excellent care first and foremost
without the public concerns of a typical zoo. Veterinarian services will be accessible 24
hours a day. Gorillas will be given the choice to be in- or outdoors at all times in
protected, secure and appropriate habitats. Gorilla Haven will not be open to the public.
Therefore, all efforts and resources will be focused on the needs of each individual
gorilla at the facility. Breeding will not be a goal, but as social animals the gorillas will
be housed together as much as possible (1-4).
Mountain Gorillas are our magnificent ancestors that are in great danger of
becoming extinct. Outstanding efforts must be made in order to preserve their species
before it is too late. This requires a genuine caring effort by all those involved in this
plight to save the mountain gorillas.