Scientifically known as “Gorilla gorilla gorilla”, western lowland gorillas are tiniest of all the 4 gorilla subspecies, which include the Grauer’s gorillas, mountain gorillas and Cross River gorillas. Western lowland gorillas are characterized by long limbs, shorter and coarse black hair and more protruding ridges on their brows. Babies possess a tuft of white on their backsides, while older western lowland gorillas usually obtain silver streaks in their fur. Just like their counterparts, western lowland gorillas are also unfastened though slightly safer than the mountain gorillas.
Where to find western lowland gorillas?
Western lowland gorillas can be easily found across most countries in the west and central Africa including Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and Gabon. These gorillas also dwell in the thick equatorial rainforests and much of their diet is made up of roots, tree barks, fruits, bamboo shoots and occasional feasting on smaller insects and reptiles.
Daily lifestyle of western lowland gorillas.
These can easily climb trees but prefer to stay on the forest floor in social groups called troops. These can form six to up to more than 25 individuals. Troops / families are governed by a dominant male referred to as a silverback. This is attributed to a streak of silver color that stands out on his contrarily black coat. Families may include young males, several females and their infants.
The silverback governs family activities, directing the group where to forage for food, when to nest, how far to move and the family’s territory. Gorillas can walk straight but are more accustomed to moving on all four limbs, using their knuckles.
Communication among western lowland gorillas.
Recognized as generally less vocal creatures, these gorillas have varying vocalizations. At least 20 distinct screams, hoots and barks have been recorded each with its distinct purpose. Gorillas are quite intelligent creatures and some have been documented learning sign language when in captivity.
Female gorillas usually deliver one tiny infant after generally nine months of pregnancy. Baby gorillas are usually small and fragile looking almost the opposite of their parents. They are helpless at this stage and just like human babies everything is done for them, only capable of suckling. At four months they can ride on their mothers’ backs until they’re 2 to 3 years of age. Baby gorillas aged three to seven years old generally spend a big chunk of their day climbing trees, swaying from branch to branch and playing.
Western lowland gorilla threats.
While western lowland gorillas may be slightly more in number than mountain gorillas, they still encounter different threats such as poaching for bush meat, encroachment on forest land for agricultural purposes and deadly diseases like Ebola have drastically reduced their numbers and have compelled the International Union for Conservation of Nature to list Western lowland gorillas as critically endangered too.
Though western lowland gorillas tend to be protected by both international and national laws, their implementation in these areas has been unstable. Protection efforts are being reinforced through liaison with local and international authorities to uphold strict and harsh penalties for poachers and encroachers. This will discourage more perpetrators and promote better conservation status of their natural habitats.
With this at the back of visitors’ minds, booking permits for western lowland gorillas must also be considered when planning African gorilla safaris. This is because a huge part of revenue got from permits is directly reinvested in the conservation and protection of these creatures. A trip to encounter western lowland gorillas plays a great role in their future and our future as well.