Very few people know that Nigeria is one of the only ten countries in Africa that host the gorillas.
These great apes are endemic to Africa and though they were taken to zoos in Europe and North America. For those who would like to see these apes in their natural home, you have to travel to Africa and go on a gorilla trekking trip to different forests where they are found. In this article, we share a few but interesting facts that you need to know about the gorillas;
The word gorillas mean “hairy woman”
The word gorilla comes from a greek word gorillai, a term that was used to refer to women with hairy bodies in the tribe of gorillini. Gorillas have a lot in common with human beings since they are apes. Besides the chimpanzees and bonobos, gorillas are the third closest cousins to human beings.
Gorillas Are the Largest Apes in Size
Gorillas are the largest apes on the African continent. Their habitats are mainly tropical rain forests and bamboo forests in East, West and Central Africa. Like most of the primates, they live in male dominated families in the rain forests of Africa. The alpha male in a gorilla family is always a silverback gorilla. However, the family can have more than one silverback.
Wild Gorillas Generally Do Not Drink Water
Unlike chimpanzees, gorillas are not fond of drinking water. They usually get the necessary water supply for their bodies in the herbs they eat. Unless it is in a zoo, it is very unlikely to find any gorilla in the wild drinking water.
Species of Gorillas;
Gorillas are classified into two species; the Eastern gorillas and the western gorillas. Each of this specie is further sub-divided into two sub-species. The Eastern gorilla category includes the eastern lowland gorillas and the mountain gorillas. The western gorillas’ category includes the western lowland gorillas and the cross-river gorillas.
Eastern Lowland Gorillas Are Only Found in DR Congo
The eastern lowland gorillas are found in the Kahuzi Biega forest and Maiko National Park of DR Congo. The Kahuzi Biega national park is the only place in the whole world where you can find the Eastern lowland gorillas in the wild. The eastern lowland gorillas are relatively larger in size compared to the eastern mountain gorillas.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for nature, the eastern lowland gorillas are some of the most endangered species in the whole world. The last count in the 1990s identified a population of 17000 gorillas. However after the early 2020s; the population was estimated to be below 8500 gorillas.
The less known Kahuzi Biega National Park is the only place in Africa where you can see these great apes in the wild. The park is located at the outskirts of Lake Kivu near the Congo-Rwanda border.
Mountain Gorillas Survive in Only Uganda, Rwanda & DR Congo
The mountain gorilla is the most popular of all species. It is found in only three countries in Africa; Uganda and Rwanda. In the whole world, there are about 1060 gorillas. One population of these great apes live in the Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the second gorilla community lives in the mountains of Virunga conservation areas. The Virunga conservation area is shared by three gorilla national parks; Mgahinga Gorilla National Park of Uganda, Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda and Virunga National Park of DR Congo.
The mountain gorillas have in the recent past shifted from the critically endangered status to endangered status. This is partly because of the conservation efforts in Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic republic of Congo which has seen the gorilla population almost double in a span of 20 years.
Western Lowland Gorillas Are Many but Threatened
The western lowland gorillas are the most common gorilla species in the whole world. These gorillas are found in the Democratic republic of Congo, Gabon, Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon. The western lowland gorilla national parks include but not limited to; Loango National Park, Odzala-Kokoua National Park, Dzanga Sangha Reserve, Deng-Deng National Park, among several other locations.
Unfortunately, even though they are the most diversely distributed gorilla species on the African continent, they are among the critically endangered species. They suffer the wrath of poaching as well as human encroachment on the land they call their home. Their current population is still unknown.
The mountain gorillas have been able to grow steadily in their population because of the continuous support that comes from gorilla tourism. However, for gorilla tourism to be possible, the gorillas have to be first habituated for a period of not less than two years. Researchers keep following gorillas from the place where they have been found until they make them familiar to human presence.
With continuous unrest in countries like the Central African Republic, failed habituation efforts and the poor road conditions in most of these countries, it is still hard to support the conservation efforts through gorilla trekking. However, it should be noted that countries like Gabon, Congo and the central African republic offer gorilla trekking but without a 99% guarantee of seeing gorillas on any day like it is for those who go gorilla trekking in Uganda, Rwanda and Virunga of the Democratic republic of Congo.
Cross River Gorillas Are Found in Nigeria & Cameroon
The cross river gorillas are the most critically endangered gorilla species on the African continent. They are estimated to be only 200 to 300 cross river gorillas in the whole world. These are shared between Nigeria and Cameroon in West Africa.
The cross river gorillas are currently found in Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary at the border of Nigeria and Cameroon.
Like the western lowland gorillas, the existence of the cross river gorillas is threatened by poaching and encroachment of the forest land where these gorillas have been surviving. However the WWF in partnership with a number of none government organizations and the government of Cameroon and Nigeria are working hand in hand to ensure that the cross river gorilla habitats are preserved.
Gorilla Species Are Not Quite Different!
The difference between the cross river gorillas and the western lowland gorillas is minimal. They are so much similar in appearance that the only way to observe a difference in skull shape and the teeth dimensions which might not be visibility distinctive at the first glance.
Gorilla Tourism is Live in Nigeria
Gorilla trekking for the cross river gorillas is still in its infancy. There are a few companies that are promoting trips to see cross river gorillas in Nigeria. Though conservation trips are still few, Nigeria can gain much from gorilla tourism. Gorilla tourism is now a backbone for most holidays to Uganda and Rwanda.
If you are considering an off the beaten path gorilla watching experience, you should include Nigeria on your list. However, our gorilla tourism is not as developed as it is in Uganda and Rwanda. It is quite important to up our efforts to conserve the gorillas, unique apes that are endemic to Africa.