Major Threats to Mountain Gorillas


Habitat Loss

Mountain Gorillas are facing a significant threat due to habitat loss. Their homes, which include mountainous forests, tropical montane cloud forests, and bamboo forests, are being modified for human settlements, wood extraction, and agricultural purposes. Commercial logging, subsistence agriculture driven by poverty, and infrastructure development such as road construction are major contributors to deforestation.

In countries like Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi, where rural populations are dense, people often clear forests for subsistence agriculture. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), forests are being cleared to provide firewood for refugees. This habitat loss directly impacts the survival of Mountain Gorillas.

For example, a substantial portion of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park has been converted for agricultural use. Similarly, in Uganda, the intrusion of locals and their livestock into Mgahinga National Park is negatively affecting the gorillas’ habitat.


Mountain Gorillas are susceptible to diseases transmitted from humans due to their genetic similarity, sharing 98% of DNA with humans. Even common illnesses like colds can be fatal to gorillas, as they lack immunity to many human-borne diseases. The introduction of new viruses can devastate entire gorilla populations.

The Ebola virus outbreak in 1990 resulted in the death of one-third of the world’s gorilla population. In places like Minkebe National Park, entire populations were wiped out by Ebola. Additionally, diseases like scabies and mange can be transmitted to gorillas through human contact, further endangering their populations.


Poaching poses a grave threat to Mountain Gorillas. Historically, gorillas have been targeted by European and American scientists for research purposes, resulting in the killing of over 50 individuals. Even after the end of the civil war in Sudan, logging companies moved into the DRC, leading to increased hunting of gorillas.

Despite laws against gorilla hunting in the DRC, poaching continues due to weak enforcement. The demand for gorilla bushmeat, considered a status symbol among the wealthy, drives commercial poaching. Gorillas are also unintentionally caught in traps set for other animals, leading to further casualties. Additionally, their body parts are used for medicinal and magical purposes.

Armed Conflict

Armed conflicts exacerbate the threats faced by Mountain Gorillas. During the Rwandan genocide in 1990, conflict spilled over into the DRC, leading to the displacement of refugees into gorilla habitats. Refugees clear forests for agriculture and use wood for survival, contributing to habitat loss.

Similarly, conflicts between Rwanda, Uganda, and the DRC have resulted in the destruction of infrastructure in protected areas like Virunga National Park. Military activities during these conflicts have led to the deaths of numerous gorillas. The pressure of refugee populations makes conservation efforts challenging.

To mitigate these threats, governments must prioritize job creation for local communities to reduce reliance on forest resources. Strict enforcement of anti-poaching laws and harsh penalties for offenders are essential. Conservation efforts should focus on addressing the root causes of habitat loss and conflict to ensure the survival of Mountain Gorillas.