Eastern Lowland Gorillas
Eastern lowland gorillas are a subspecies of Eastern gorilla. There are only two gorilla species, the Eastern Gorillas and the Western Gorillas both of which are found only in Africa, with each having a subspecies. Eastern gorillas have the mountain gorillas that are found in the Virunga Massif Area and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, as well as Eastern lowland gorillas solely in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Congo as well has the western lowland gorillas, making it the only country to inhabit 3 different gorilla subspecies.
Eastern lowland gorillas are in the Congo only in majorly Kahuzi Biega National Park and Maiko National Park plus their adjacent forests, the Tayna Gorilla Reserve, Usala forest and on the Itombwe Massif. Kahuzi Biega National Park, located in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is the one park that travellers most frequent to see the eastern lowland gorillas in the famous gorilla trekking activity that has many travellers from distant countries making a visit. The park has two dormant volcanoes Mount Kahuzi and Mount Biega from where the park derived its name that the travellers can opt to hike. In 1980, Kahuzi Biega National Park was declared a UNESCO world heritage site for its biodiversity and inhabiting the eastern lowland gorillas not found in any other country but the Congo. Travellers interested in gorilla trekking of the eastern lowland gorillas can do it in Kahuzi Biega National Park and Maiko National Park. There are currently 2 gorilla families of the eastern lowland gorillas that are habituated and available for gorilla trekking in Kahuzi Biega National Park, booking in advance is recommended to secure one’s spot.
The lowland gorillas are the largest of the four subspecies of gorillas mentioned above. Eastern lowland gorillas are properly distinguished from the other gorilla subspecies by their stocky body, large hands with a short muzzle. Just like mountain gorillas, eastern lowland gorillas have jet black coat though their hair is shorter on the head and the body most probably because they live in relatively low areas as compared to mountain gorillas that live in very high altitude areas. Male eastern lowland gorillas can weigh up to 250 kilograms and reach up to 2 meters when standing upright. The male’s coat also becomes grey with age, thus having silverbacks as well. Female eastern lowland gorillas weigh about 100 kilograms and a height of 1.6 meters only. Females give birth to single infants after a gestation period of 8 months and a half.
The lowland gorillas feed on foliage, fruits, leaves, stems, and small insects like ants. The lowland gorillas live in relatively larger groups of up to 30 gorilla individuals and more as compared to the mountain gorillas. A typical eastern lowland gorilla family or group consists of a dominant silverback, several females, and offspring. Silverbacks are the heads of the family and protect it from attack. They are highly sociable and very peaceful apes.
Basing on a recent report by scientists showed a deadly drop in the numbers of the eastern gorillas by 77%. The gorillas were estimated at 17,000 in 1995 but were reduced to merely 3,800 gorilla individuals in the year 2016. This drastic drop is highly attributed to the civil unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo that has ravaged the country over the years which also had the rangers’ monitoring abilities challenged thus having the gorillas prone to attacks from illegal hunters and poachers too. Habit loss has also had the eastern gorillas being highly threatened and affected, with their habitat significantly decreasing from 8,100 square miles to a mere approximated size of 4,600 square miles, largely due to illegal logging, agricultural land use, illegal settlements, mining among others.
The lowland gorillas though endangered are believed to be able to withstand the prevailing threats with the help of gorilla conservation organizations that are at the forefront of conserving the gorillas from extinction. Take time to reach out to reputable tour operators to help you plan a Congo safari and get to encounter the eastern gorillas in a gorilla trekking adventure.