Gorillas are divided into three species, the lowland gorillas, also known as the Grauer’s gorillas being the largest of the three subspecies of gorillas, the western lowland gorillas and the mountain gorillas which live in the montane forest area. Grauer’s gorillas or the eastern lowland are found only in the Democratic Republic of Congo’ s lowland tropical rain forests in Kahuzi Beiga and Maiko National Park and the intersecting forest reserves.
Then, the Mountain gorillas live in Virunga Mountain ranges, which covers Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo as well as in Bwindi impenetrable Forest National Park in Uganda. Estimates from the Wildlife Conservation Society and other expert scientific research studies who have studied lowland gorillas show that there has been a dramatic decrease in their population from 17,000 individuals in 1990’s to an estimated current number of less than 4,000 which frustratingly represent a 77 percent decline in their numbers for the last two and a half decades. Its also believed that the only way to save lowland gorilla just like mountain gorilla through tourism. Creating awareness of lowland gorilla safaris in Kahuzi Biega national park of Congo and other lowland gorilla destinations
There is also estimated 880 individuals of mountain gorillas living in the world with 480 gorillas living in Virunga mountain ranges, half of them living on Rwanda side in Volcanoes National park, over 200 living in Virunga national park in DR Congo and less than 20 individuals in Mgahinga National park in Uganda. The remaining half of the world’s mountain gorillas live in Bwindi impenetrable Forest National park in Uganda.
Democratic Republic of Congo has been unpopular for civil wars and armed rebel activities taking place in the eastern side and parts of south Kivu province where the lowland gorillas and endangered mountain gorillas live.
The Rwandan genocide of 1994 also stirred up rebel activities in Volcanoes National park and the neighboring DR Congo when many desperate refuges stormed the gorilla habitats encroaching on national parks. In the midst of rebels fighting claiming lives of people over resources such as timber, minerals and land, a considerable number of gorillas were caught up and killed, kidnapped or illegally traded which clearly justifies why there a serious decline in their numbers.
Such long years of civil unrest failed the authority and powers of the respective government’s effort to conserve and protect gorillas and other wildlife from the face of poachers attracting the attention of several world conservation organizations, NGO’s, tropical forest research institutions and dedicated individuals to support governments to stop poaching, illegal mining and other threats to the survival of the gorillas as well as calling unto the International Union for Conservation of Nature to equalize the status of the species from being threatened to critically endangered which would raise their conservation.
Efforts to reduce and or stop civil wars and the accompanying illegal activities such as mining, timber harvesting taking place in gorilla protected national parks and other stretches of forests that provide shelter to other important species of flora and fauna, have been partly brought by the deployment and presence of United Nations and African Union peace keeping forces and the work of armed park rangers who have though been suffocated by rebels as they try to protect the gorillas and other wildlife.
Gorilla tourism is a major contributory factor in conserving the mountain gorillas as the governments generate much foreign exchange from sale of Gorilla tracking permits to the tourists who come from all over the world to come and see the gorillas in their natural wild. The money is used to conserve the gorillas and other wildlife by paying the park rangers, training staff, compensating the local community neighboring the parks. However, with the civil wars, the tourists are scared away from coming and thus, low money generated, which poses a great challenge in wildlife conservation due to luck of funds.
Currently, there is general political stability in the three countries where the gorillas live and this is registering some success in conserving the lives of gorillas. Successfully rangers have been trained and legally armed with supportive infrastructures such as ranger patrol posts, remarking of national park boundaries while putting the interests of local communities at the forefront of every efforts being taken to conserve Gorillas and other wildlife in the national parks.
Strong law enforcement and anti –poaching laws have been put in place and monitoring of gorillas in the already secured protected areas although the process has never been easy at all due to several challenges including insufficient funding of conservation activities mainly to protect gorillas.