Quick facts on why the iconic gorillas are on the critically endangered list, their importance to the ecosystem and campaigns to save them.
What’s black, silver and fuzzy all over? You guessed it – a male silverback gorilla! As most people know primates are very intellectual mammals. Many people believe that the human race evolved from the primate species. If you haven’t taken an archaeology or evolutionary biology class you may be asking why do people believe this? Gorilla DNA has a 98% match up to our DNA. There is no other species on the planet that has DNA so similar to our own – just incredible, but unfortunately, we are the gorillas biggest threat to its existence. Two main reasons for this is poaching and habitat loss. It is common that you will read about either one or the other or both when researching about endangered species. The more we cut down trees for logging, fuelwood and forest product collection, the more we are endangering all species in that geographical area – not just gorillas. It’s not even just about animals anymore…It’s about our world as a whole. We need to be very careful because we are treading a thin line by using up most of the earth’s natural resources, excavating the land to build tall buildings and factories that do not aid in the increase of the planets survival. The main thing people are concerned about is the growth of their wallet. It’s not bad enough that we destroy their homes (sarcasm) so; we decide to take it a step further and hunt them for their meat… Talk about crossing the line.
Conservation methods have been put into action for preservation of the gorilla species by, education, ecotourism, and surveillance/patrols to keep humans away. Dian Fossey has really been the founder of the gorilla conservation movement from back in 1979 when she founded the Mountain Gorilla Project. Many national parks are protected and are a safe place for wildlife to multiply. Educating communities is an important step to the gorilla’s survival. “Economic value must be given to live gorillas if local communities are to stop pursuing them for meat. Alternately, world aid and development organizations must give fiscal incentives for gorilla-friendly development projects that include alternate protein sources” (Lang, 2005). It is imperative that we understand the importance of all animals on this earth and how extinction can alter the environment as we know it. The only way to do this is by respecting all life that walks, crawls, slithers, fly’s, etc on this planet.
Gorillas are important to the ecosystem for a number of different reasons. Gorillas eat a large amount of vegetation and fruit which helps to maintain the forests foliage from becoming too abundant. Gorillas aide in the dispersing of seeds throughout the forest therefore, replenishing the area for all animals cohabitating together. Ian Redmond believes that gorillas are the gardeners of the forest and need to be protected to keep the balance in the ecosystem. “The industrialized countries would be making a mistake if they did not commit specific funds to protecting the gorillas as part of the discussion on reforestation efforts at the climate change negotiations at Copenhagen next December” (Redmond, 2009).
I truly don’t believe humans are born to be destructive but socially we follow the chain of command. We also grow up in a society that is focused on “me” – what can you do for me, instead of what can I do for you. I just hope we can acknowledge the responsibility we have to take care of our home and the animals that inhabit it. Progress is being made in large and small strides around the world, but we really need to come together as a nation to fix the problems we started and keep them from happening again.
Contributed by Nikela Volunteer Elizabeth Howells