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World Gorilla Day: Supporting the guardians of the forest

World Gorilla Day marks its 7th anniversary today, pushing for greater awareness and investment in gorilla conservation.

Since its inauguration in 2017, World Gorilla Day has served as a focal point for people worldwide to celebrate these magnificent creatures and commit to their protection.

While it is clear that collective action and awareness-raising have been making a difference, much more work remains to be done.

The legacy of Dian Fossey

The celebration of World Gorilla Day coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Karisoke Research Center, founded by the late primatologist Dian Fossey. 

As the longest-running gorilla field study site, Karisoke continues to focus on the research, conservation, and protection of gorillas in Africa. However, despite the dedication of numerous organizations and individuals, there is a need for increased investment and public awareness to bolster the survival chances for gorillas.

Critical state of mountain gorillas

The mountain gorilla, living in high-altitude mountain and bamboo forests, remains critically endangered. With just around 880 of them left in the wild, their habitat is constantly threatened by human activities. 

For example, mining for coltan, a mineral used in small electronic devices, has led to significant habitat destruction in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, displacing or even killing gorillas.

Recycle old cell phones

The annual “Gorillas on the Line…Answer the Call” campaign focuses on recycling small electronic devices to decrease the demand for coltan and preserve gorilla habitats. 

Recycling old cell phones and other devices helps reduce the negative impact of coltan mining on gorilla habitats.

Help support Virunga National Park

Protecting gorillas in conflict zones, particularly in Virunga National Park, is a monumental task that requires the tireless efforts of over 770 Rangers. Their unyielding spirit and determination are a testament to the significance of conserving this endangered species.

Over the past year, the security situation at Virunga National Park has become extremely dangerous, with rebel groups controlling the Park’s southern sector – an area which spans the endangered mountain gorilla habitat and Park headquarters. 

“Tragically, ten of our brave Rangers have lost their lives in unprovoked attacks in 2023 alone,” the park said on its website. “With the support of local communities, dedication of our Rangers and adoption of new technologies, we are persisting in our efforts to preserve the Park’s rich biodiversity.”

Your donation will help us stand strong in the midst of these challenging circumstance.

Adopt a gorilla

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) provides us with the opportunity to symbolically adopt a gorilla to support their conservation efforts. 

“For more than 60 years, WWF has been protecting the future of nature. WWF works in nearly 100 countries and is supported by 1.3 million members in the United States and more than 5 million members globally,” the organization says on its website. 

“Your donation provides general support and makes you a member. 83% of spending is directed to worldwide conservation activities.”

More about gorillas

Gorillas are the largest of the great apes and are divided mainly into two species: the Eastern gorilla and the Western gorilla. Each of these species has two subspecies. 

  • Eastern gorilla: The subspecies are the Mountain gorilla and the Eastern Lowland gorilla. 
  • Western gorilla: The subspecies are the Western Lowland gorilla and the Cross River gorilla.


Mountain gorillas are found in the cloud forests of Central Africa, specifically in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They live at elevations ranging from 8,000 to 13,000 feet. 

Western Lowland gorillas inhabit the rainforests of Central and West Africa, including countries like Gabon, Cameroon, and the Republic of the Congo.

Social structure and behavior

Gorillas live in groups called troops, which typically consist of one dominant male, known as the silverback, along with multiple females and their offspring. The silverback serves as the protector and decision-maker of the troop. 

Gorillas communicate through vocalizations, body postures, and facial expressions. Their social structure is remarkably intricate, built on strong family ties and relationships.


Gorillas are primarily herbivorous, relying on leaves, shoots, and stems as their main food sources. They also eat fruits, small insects, and, occasionally, small vertebrates. Their diet varies by habitat and availability of food sources.

Threats and conservation efforts

The survival of gorillas is increasingly threatened due to habitat loss, poaching, and disease. For instance, diseases transmitted by humans, such as respiratory infections, have become a significant concern. Illegal hunting for bushmeat and capture for the illegal pet trade also puts pressure on gorilla populations.

Efforts to conserve gorillas include establishing and maintaining national parks and reserves, implementing anti-poaching measures, and community engagement programs to encourage local populations to become stewards of gorilla conservation. Initiatives like World Gorilla Day play a crucial role in raising awareness and funds.

Ecosystem health

Gorillas have a multifaceted role in maintaining the health and stability of their ecosystems. Their decline or extinction would have cascading effects, potentially leading to reduced biodiversity, compromised forest health, and weakened ecosystem services, emphasizing the importance of their conservation.

Seed dispersal

Gorillas have a primarily vegetarian diet, which includes a variety of fruits. After consuming these fruits, they excrete the seeds in different locations. This seed dispersal is vital for forest regeneration and increasing plant diversity. Many of the plants they consume rely on gorillas to help their seeds spread and germinate.

Nutrient recycling

By feeding on vegetation and subsequently excreting waste, gorillas play a part in recycling vital nutrients in the forest ecosystem. Their waste enriches the soil, promoting plant growth.

Forest health and dynamics

Gorillas, particularly the Western Lowland gorilla, are known to clear vegetation in areas where they nest each night. This seemingly small act has a cumulative effect, creating clearings in forests that allow new plants to grow and letting sunlight penetrate deeper into the forest. This dynamic action affects forest composition and structure over time.

Control of herbivore populations

While gorillas are herbivores, their presence can influence the density and behavior of other herbivorous animals in the ecosystem due to competition for food resources.

Bioindicator species

Gorillas, being at the top of their food chain and reliant on a specific habitat, can serve as an indicator of the overall health of their ecosystem. 

If gorilla populations are thriving, it often indicates that the lower levels of the food chain are in balance and that the habitat is healthy. Conversely, declining gorilla populations might indicate problems in the ecosystem.

Economic and cultural importance

While not a direct ecological role, gorillas play a crucial role in the local economy and culture of regions where they inhabit. 

Gorilla trekking and ecotourism attract thousands of visitors, providing significant revenue and jobs. These tourism activities often fund conservation projects which benefit not only the gorillas but the broader ecosystem.

As we celebrate World Gorilla Day, it is essential to recognize their intrinsic value as unique and complex creatures, as well as their significance to ecosystems. The plight of the gorilla is more than a conservation issue; it is a call to uphold the interconnectedness of life on Earth.

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