03 Feb

A Mountain Gorilla’s Journey Through Climate Change

Amongst the mountains and the deep green forests of central Africa lives the stoic mountain gorilla. Standing between 4 and 6 feet tall, weighing between 300 and 500 pounds, and covered in hair from head to toe, these gentle mammals form bands or troops for community living. Each troop covers an area of .75 to 16 square miles, and an adult gorilla can eat up to 39-44 pounds of vegetation in a day. These gentle giants spend most of their day eating while occasionally playing with their babies.

How Does Climate Affect Mountain Gorillas?

With a habitat that’s confined to the top of six volcanoes in Africa, the mountain gorilla has limited options for discovering new habitats as the climate becomes hotter. To find the right temperatures, gorillas move to high elevations in the mountains. Less rainfall and changes in precipitation can also mean more chance of forest fires. Meanwhile, humans are also seeking better temperatures for crops and the resources of the forest. This places more pressure on gorillas and their habitat.

Though gorillas are some of the most adaptive creatures in the world, the shift in climate has altered their habitat. Mountain gorillas can operate in a wide range of temperatures, and their omnivorous habits mean they have many food sources. Moreover, they don’t need a lot of water, gaining much of their liquid through vegetation.

And yet, with an already small population and a small habitat, mountain gorillas are vulnerable. Human settlements keep gorillas from finding new habitat in other areas, and gorillas also have a low reproductive rate. Mountain gorillas require more time to reach maturity than other species.

When mountain gorillas mate and reproduce, the female gorilla is pregnant for nearly nine months, and the baby is tiny—often only weighing about four pounds. From birth until the age of 2 or 3, these baby gorillas ride on the backs of their mothers. Then, from ages three to six, young gorillas are focused on play. Female gorillas reach maturity around 10 years old while male gorillas don’t reach maturity until 15 years.

Some of the main problems from climate change include temperature shifts and rainfall changes, which challenge the diet of the gorillas. Scientists have noted that the vegetation that gorillas often consume has had to migrate to higher or lower elevations in order to survive. Meanwhile, a favorite food of the gorillas, a vine called Galium, has seen a 50 percent decline in biomass over twenty years.

In response to the changing temperatures, humans are also seeking survival. Whether they need water or better agricultural conditions, humans have begun to build and plant nearer to gorilla habitats. Due to closer proximity a new threat has arrived for the gorillas: disease. Certain diseases can be passed from humans to gorillas. While humans often recover, gorillas don’t have the same immunity. 

The spread of disease is not the only threat posed by humans. Humans also hunt and poach gorillas.

When it comes to protecting the mountain gorillas, a number of steps can be taken, whether it’s a community activity or an individual priority. Not only is it important to monitor the habitat of gorillas, it’s crucial to keep an eye on disease as well as offer different options to humans who may be looking for better land for agriculture.

Another way that the needs of mountain gorillas can be prioritized is through gorilla tourism. Many African countries continue to protect the habitat of gorillas because of the profit that comes in from tourism. If you choose to visit the mountain gorillas, you’ll need a gorilla trekking permit. Be sure to not to go if you’re ill, and while on the trek, keep a safe, minimum distance of 23 feet between you and the gorillas.

Visiting mountain gorillas may not be a possibility for you, but you may want to donate to conservation organizations that protect mountain gorillas. Also steer clear of buying products that might be made with wild animal parts. These small actions can be life-changing for mountain gorillas.

At Golden Arrow, we do our part for the environment and mountain gorillas by developing packaging options for businesses that prioritize the environment from start to finish. Discover our environmentally friendly packaging options by emailing us at info@goldenarrow.com.