The genus Gorilla is divided into two species: the eastern gorillas and the western gorillas, and either four or five subspecies. They are the largest living primates by physical size. The DNA of gorillas is highly similar to that of humans, from 95–99% depending on what is counted, and they are the next closest living relatives to humans after the chimpanzees and bonobos.
Gorillas’ wild habitats include tropical or subtropical forests across Equatorial Africa from the Abertine Rift west to Nigeria. Although their range covers a small percentage of Africa, gorillas cover a wide range of elevations. The mountain gorilla inhabits the Albertine Rift montane cloud forests of the Virunga Volcanoes, ranging in altitude from 2,200–4,300 metres (7,200–14,100 ft). Lowland gorillas live in dense forests and lowland swamps and marshes as low as sea level, with western lowland gorillas living in Central West African countries and eastern lowland gorillas living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo near its border with Rwanda.
Mountain Gorillas are protected by CITES and can only be found in their wild, natural habitats unlike other gorilla subspecies which may be found in international zoos and sanctuaries.
Recently, surveys indicate that the population has increased from 1,004 in 2018 to at least 1,063. This means that Mountain Gorillas are the only great ape with a growing population. However, as their total population is still quite small, primatologists are maintaining a close eye on their numbers and pushing forward with multilateral conservation schemes.
As with many other primates, the Mountain Gorilla faces many human related threats, including: habitat destruction for timber and firewood, disease transmission, climate change, and illegal poaching (either through direct hunting or getting caught in snares intended for other animals). Because of their marked genetic similarities to humans, Mountain Gorillas are highly susceptible to disease transmission — from ebola to the common cold — and exposure to these diseases could be massively detrimental to their population. Regional unrest and insecurity in the area also poses a significant threat as it may be too dangerous for conservationists to carry out their plans, as well as militant forces putting strain on the forest’s natural resources.