Longevity & Causes of Death
- The lifespan of a gorilla is estimated to be about 35 years in the wild.
- Gorillas may live up to 50 years.
- Leopards and crocodiles are large carnivores which may prey upon gorillas. Humans are the greatest threat to all gorilla populations.
- The main threats to gorilla populations today are habitat loss/fragmentation, poaching, disease transmission from humans, and civil wars/political unrest.
- Habitat loss and fragmentation occurs when land is modified for agricultural purposes, logging, and land conversion for grazing domestic animals.
- Coltan Mining
Coltan is a metallic ore comprising niobium and tantalum. In the refined form, this rare mineral becomes a heat resistant powder which has unique electrical charge storage capabilities. It is an essential component in the capacitors that regulate current flow in the circuit boards of cell phones. Nearly four-fifths of the world's tantalum resources are located in Africa, of which 80% is located in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The DRC is home to many endangered species such as gorillas and elephants. Kahuzi-Biega National Park is located in the DRC and has been decimated by land clearing which facillitates the mining process. The land clearing has greatly reduced the amount of available food for native wildlife. Additionally with greater numbers of miners penetrating deep into the forest, where food supplies are scarce, they begin to rely on bushmeat. Bushmeat is meat derived from wildlife living in the forested areas of Africa. Mountain and Eastern lowland gorilla populations have been drastically reduced in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park locale. Coltan mining has become a lucrative industry due to the increased cell phone usage in the last decade. This increased economic incentive has placed great pressure on local wildlife. Unfortunately there are few alternative sources for coltan.
- Poaching is the illegal killing of an animal. Gorillas are poached for three main reasons: meat, capture for collections, and trophies. Partially due to the false negative image that gorilla stereotyping has projected, trophies from their hands, feet, skulls, and skins have been sought after. The collection of gorillas, especially infants, has led to numerous fatalities of adult males and females trying to protect their young. Many animals, including gorillas, are accidentally caught in snares not intended for them, often times resulting in death or serious injury. The most significant and urgent threat to African wildlife today is the commercial bushmeat trade (see below).
Forested areas in Africa are often referred to as 'the bush'. Meat derived from wildlife living in these areas is called bushmeat. Many bushmeat animals are either threatened or endangered, like the elephant, gorilla, and chimpanzee. It is estimated that over one million metric tons are taken from the Congo basin each year. Bushmeat has unfortunately become a profitable business for individuals without alternative income options, earning them about $300-$1,000 per year which is higher than the average regional household income. The bushmeat trade generates about $50 million annually. The vast majority of bushmeat consumers are low income families who cannot afford more costly meat alternatives such as pork and chicken. However, logging company employees and illegal imports to countries such as the United States and Britain are financially contributing to the growing crisis. It is estimated that as much as 10 tons of African bushmeat may be reaching London on a daily basis, according to a British documentary. The logging industry has accelerated the bushmeat trade through direct bushmeat consumption and by creating access to the forests through the construction of roads, thus increasing poaching opportunities. All viable African ape populations may become extinct within the next 5 to 15 years due to the bushmeat trade.
- Unfortunately, the gorillas' forested home may also provide retreats for armed opposition groups during times of war and political unrest. This adversely affects gorilla and other animal populations by reducing the number of areas they may safely inhabit (habitat loss).
Gorilla skulls among other animal products
for sale at a market in Cameroon.
Disease & Parasitism
- Many diseases that infect humans may also infect primates. The infectious agents that cause the following diseases may survive in soil tainted with fecal matter for up to six months: hepatitis A, poliovirus, tapeworm, and tuberculosis bacillus.
- In November/December 2002 the Ebola virus caused the deaths of many gorillas and chimpanzees; including 8 gorilla groups that had been studied by researchers since 1994.