Gorillas are the largest living primates on the planet and they are known to be
closely related to humans sharing up to 98 percent of the human DNA. There are two broad gorilla species in the world and they are all found in Africa.
The two gorilla species include the Eastern and the Western gorilla and each gorilla species has got two subspecies under it.
The two subspecies that make up the Eastern gorilla include the mountain gorilla found in the Virunga Mountains of DR Congo, Rwanda and Uganda and the eastern lowland gorillas which are found in the lowland forests of eastern DR Congo.
The Western gorilla group is made up of the Western lowland gorilla found in the lowland swamps and montane forests of Central African Republic, Gabon, Cameroon, DR Congo, Angola, Equatorial Guinea and Republic of the Congo. The other subspecies of the Western gorilla are the Cross River Gorillas found in the area around the border of Cameroon and Nigeria.
The Western gorilla
The Western gorilla also known as Gorilla gorilla is the most numerous type among all gorilla species. The gorillas in this category have a combination of gray and brown fur on their bodies while that on their forehead is yellowish.
The main distinguishing features between the western gorilla and the eastern gorilla is their lighter color and an overhanging tip on their nose. Both species share a lot of features in common including living in social groups made up of between 2 and 30 individuals, each group is led by one male and composed of several females, and young ones.
Western gorillas are classified as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List with their biggest threats to their survival including the Ebola virus, poaching, habitat loss through human activity and civil wars. This category is also characterized by low reproduction rates which makes their population recovery very difficult.
Western lowland gorilla
This is one of the two subspecies of the Western gorilla and is also known as Gorilla gorilla gorilla. The Western lowland gorillas are found in the lowland swamps and montane forests of Central Africa in countries like Cameroon, DR Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, and the Republic of the Congo.
Western lowland gorillas are the smallest among all gorilla species though they still remain as one of the biggest and strongest terrestrial mammals. They are characterized by a jet black skin, full-body coarse hair and no tails.
Cross River Gorilla
This is the second subspecies of the western gorilla also known as Gorilla gorilla diehli and it is the most northern and western living gorilla. Cross River gorillas are found in the highly restricted area of forested hills and mountains at the border of Cameroon and Nigeria.
Their habitat is located around the Cross River headwaters and this is where they derive their name. Estimates of 2014 indicate that about 250 Cross River gorilla individuals were left making it the rarest ape species in the world.
The main difference between the Cross River gorilla and the Western lowland gorilla is that former has a smaller palate, cranial vault, and skull while they also possess smaller hands and feet.
The Eastern gorilla
The Eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei) is the second species of gorillas and its animals are the largest living primates in the world. They live in the subalpine and mountain rainforests of DR Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda an area commonly known as the Virunga Mountains while others live in the Albertine Rift forests of Eastern DR Congo.
Eastern gorillas are massive in size with big a big head and broad chest and long forelimbs. Their bodies are covered with black fur while their face, feet, hands, and breast are bald.
Like other gorilla species, the Eastern gorilla was also listed as critically endangered in 2016 though this is more true with the eastern lowland gorillas as the population of mountain gorillas has been steadily increasing thanks for conservation efforts enhanced by tourism purposes.
The mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) is one of two subspecies of the Eastern gorilla together with the Eastern lowland gorilla. Mountain gorillas live in two separate populations, one in the volcanic Virunga Mountains of Central Africa straddling across the borders of DR Congo, and Uganda and the other in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.
Mountain gorillas live in social groups of between 2-30 members and some groups have been habituated for tourism purposes. Gorilla safaris to trek mountain gorillas are more pronounced in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda and in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
Eastern lowland gorilla
The Eastern lowland gorilla also known as the Grauer’s gorilla or Gorilla beringei graueri is another subspecies of the Eastern gorilla. The group inhabitants the mountainous forests of eastern DR Congo with their populations living in Maliko National Parks, Kahuzi-Biega National Parks, Usala forest, Itombwe Massif and the surrounding areas. The Eastern lowland gorilla is the biggest subspecies of gorilla and closely resembles the mountain gorilla save the shorter hair on the body and head. About 4,000 individuals of the Grauer’s gorilla are surviving today and they are classified as critically endangered due to the rapid reduction of their population. It was estimated that 70 percent of their population was lost between 1996 and 2016 majorly due to poaching, habitat loss to human activity and civil wars.