How Many Species of Gorillas are There, Gorilla Breeds
How many types of gorillas are there? There are two species of gorillas−the Eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei) and the Western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla). Each gorilla species is further subdivided into two subspecies.
The Eastern Gorilla species consists of the Eastern low land gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) and the Mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei).
The Western gorilla species consists of the Western Lowland Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and the Cross River Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla diehli).
The separate two species and four subspecies evolved from a single type of gorilla during the Ice Age when their forest habitats shrank and became isolated from each other.
Below is a description of the 4 subspecies of gorillas in Africa.
Mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei)
- As their name suggests, mountain gorillas live in the mountains at elevations between 2438 and 3962 meters/8,000 and 13,000 feet.
- Mountain gorillas have a standing height of 4 to 6 feet and weigh between 136 to 220 kg/ 300 to 485 pounds.
- They have thicker fur, and more of it, compared to other gorilla subspecies. The fur enables them to live in a habitat where temperatures often drop below freezing.
- There are about 1063 mountain gorillas remaining on earth.
- There are two mountain gorilla populations;
- One population of about 604 gorillas is found in the Virunga volcanic mountains of Central-East Africa within three national parks including Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Virunga National Park in DR Congo, and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
- The other population of mountain gorillas of about 459 gorillas lives in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
- They are currently classified as endangered on IUCN red-list.
Eastern Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla Beringei Graueri)
- Eastern lowland gorillas are also known as Grauer’s gorillas
- Eastern lowland gorillas are the largest subspecies of gorilla and the largest living primates weighing over 250 kilograms. They have a maximum standing height of 1.85 metres/6.1 feet.
- They have jet black coats like the mountain gorillas, although the hair is shorter on the head and body.
- East lowland gorillas are found only in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Due to decades of civil unrest in Congo, this area has historically been difficult to access by researchers, and not much is known about Grauer’s gorillas.
- Grauer’s are the most at risk of the four gorilla subspecies.
- Only roughly 3,800 Grauer’s gorillas remain and even more frightening is that researchers estimate their numbers have declined by close to 80% over the last twenty-five years.
- And so, it is this rapid rate of decline, combined with a relatively small number that makes Grauer’s gorillas so at risk.
- The primary reason is poaching, which has flourished during a long period of civil unrest in the region and illegal mining for components used in small electronics like cell phones.
Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla)
- Western lowland gorillas are the smallest of the four gorilla subspecies. They weigh between 168 to 181 kilograms/ 150 to 400 pounds and have a standing height of 4 to 6 feet.
- They have shorter black-brown hair, longer arms, and a more prominent ridge along their brow.
- Eastern lowland gorillas are most numerous and widespread of all gorilla subspecies. About 100,000 western lowland gorillas exist on earth today.
- The western lowland gorilla is the only gorilla subspecies kept in zoos around the world with the exception of Amahoro, a female eastern lowland gorilla at Antwerp Zoo.
- They live in montane, primary and secondary forest and lowland swampland in central Africa in Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, and Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
- However, due to their rapidly decreasing population, they are currently classified as critically endangered.
Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli)
- The Cross River gorilla is the rarest great apes in the world. It is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN red-list with a population of around 250-300 individuals.
- They are restricted to the mountainous border area between Cameroon and Nigeria at the top of the Cross River, after which they are named.
- When compared to the western lowland gorillas, cross-river gorillas have noticeably smaller palates, smaller cranial vaults, and shorter skulls.
- The Cross River gorilla is not known to differ much in terms of body size or limb and bone length from western lowland gorillas.
- They weigh between 140–200 kilograms and have a standing height of 4 to 5 feet.
To see any of these Gorilla species, Gorilla trekking in Uganda is done in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park & Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is done in Volcanoes National Park or Gorilla trekking in Democratic Republic of Congo is done in Virunga National Park and Kahuzi Biega National Park
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