Endangered Gorillas

In 1987 the number of mountain gorillas in the world was approximately 250 and at the time that number included the bwindi gorilla sub-species too (click here to read more about gorilla classification). Currently there’ are perhaps 900 mountains in both the Virunga Region and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (combined) left in the world, so it cannot be denied that wildlife conservation efforts do make a difference.

Conservation efforts are absolutely essential if gorillas are going to survive. As far back as the beginning of the 20th century, Carl Akeley, an American researcher warned that if measures were not taken, the mountain gorilla would soon be just another extinct species. His dire prediction led to the formation of Albert National Park (now known as Virunga National Park) in 1925, as Africa’s first national park, with a primary goal of protecting gorillas.

Since that time and especially after Dian Fossey’s superb efforts in protecting gorillas, much ground has been gained. That said, it should be added that complacency is a state that should never be allowed to creep into wildlife conservation…situations can change quite rapidly, and in the case of gorilla conservation, judging by the figures shown below there is still a lot of ground to be covered if we are to keep this magnificent species from disappearing from the face of the earth.

Table Showing (Estimated) Wild Gorilla Numbers and Their Corresponding Threatened Status


Gorilla gorilla


Gorilla beringei


Western Lowland Gorilla

Gorilla gorilla gorilla

(80,000-100,000)* EN

Mountain Gorilla

Gorilla beringei beringei

(300-325)* CR

Cross River Gorilla

Gorilla gorilla diehli

(250)* CR

Eastern Lowland Gorilla

Gorilla beringei graueri

(3000-5,000)* EN

Bwindi Gorilla

Gorilla beringei ?

(320)* CR

Rudimentary Guide To Threatened Status Classification

EXTINCT (EX)- A species is said to be extinct when there is no reasonable doubt that the last individual has died.
EXTINCT IN THE WILD (EW) – This occurs when a species is known to only exist in captivity or some form of artificial environment far removed from where the species was once in abundance.

CRITICALLY ENDANGERED (CR) – A species is said to be critically endangered if:

  • There’s been a population reduction of 90%* where the causative factors are well understood, reversible and currently no longer active.
  • The same as above but with a reduction of 80%* and the causative factors: are not clearly understood, have not ceased or may not be reversible.
  • Where a population reduction of 80% or more is expected within the next 10 years or span of three generations (whichever is the longer) to a maximum of 100 years.

ENDANGERED (EN) – A species is said to be endangered if it meets any of the following criteria.
A. Reduction in population following:
1) A 90% size decrease* where the causes are:

  • reversible
  • understood
  • no longer active

2) An 80% size decrease* where the causes:

  • May still be ongoing
  • Are not clearly understood
  • May not be reversible

3) A projected 80% decrease in population size* within a maximum time frame of 100 years .
4) An observed or projected 80% decrease in population size* (within a maximum time frame of 100 years) for a period that incorporates both the past and the future, where the causative factors:

  • may not be reversible
  • may still be ongoing
  • may not be understood

*Over the last 10 years or spanning three generations–whichever time frame is longer
B. Negative trends in geographic range where:

  1. Extent of occurrence is estimated to be severely reduced:
    • located in a single area (or is very fragmented)
    • area is diminishing (observed and/or projected)

C. Population size is estimated to number fewer than 250 mature individuals where there is:

  • continuing decline of at least 25% within three years or one generation (whichever is longer for a maximum period of 100 years)

D. An estimated population size numbering fewer than 50 mature individuals.
E. Analysis shows a 50% probability of extinction in the wild within 10 years or 3 generations (whichever is longer for a maximum period of 100 years).