By Fernando Aguilar, Youth Manager
The civil unrest in the Republic of Congo has taken its toll on the Eastern Lowland Gorilla. The Eastern Lowland Gorilla rests in the lowland rain forests in eastern Congo. As a result, its home has decreased from 8,100 square miles (about the size of the state of Massachusetts) to about 4,600 square miles in the past fifty years. In the mid-1990s, their population was as strong as nearly 17,000. Unfortunately, their numbers may have declined by more than 50% since then. Throughout the unrest, they have been vulnerable to poaching, even in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, home to the largest population of protected Eastern Lowland Gorillas. Rebels and poachers invaded the park and people set up illegal mines.
Why do they matter? They are our closest cousins! Gorillas share about 98.3% of their DNA with humans, making them our closest cousins after chimpanzees and bonobos. Gorillas play a key role in maintaining the biodiversity by spreading the seeds of the trees they eat and by opening up gaps in the trees as they move around, letting in light and help plants get the sun they need. The Congo Basin is home to the second largest tropical rain forest on Earth, which serves as the green heart of Africa. If this forest falls, impact will be felt globally.
Why are they going extinct? Poaching, diseases such as Ebola, and habitat destruction threaten the four Gorilla subspecies; most Gorillas live outside of protected areas.
How can we help? An easy way to help, is donating to WWF (World Wildlife Fund) and adopting one of this amazing animal.
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