Lowland gorillas are another kind of gorillas totally different from the earlier discussed mountain gorillas. Lowland gorillas dwell in the rainforests of equatorial Africa. Lowland gorillas remain critically endangered and their numbers continue to decline because of poaching, habitat destruction, and disease. Lowland gorillas are subdivided into two subspecies which can be elucidated as below;
Western lowland gorillas
The western lowland gorilla is the most numerous and widespread of all gorilla subspecies. Populations can be found in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea as well as in large areas in Gabon and the Republic of Congo. The exact number of western lowland gorillas is not known because they inhabit some of the most dense and remote rainforests in Africa. Significant populations still exist, including in isolated swamps and the remote swampy forests of the Republic of Congo.
Western lowland gorillas can be distinguished from other gorilla subspecies by their slightly smaller size, their brown-grey coats and auburn chests. They also have wider skulls with more pronounced brow ridges and smaller ears. Large numbers have not protected the western lowland gorilla from decline. Because of poaching and disease, the gorillas’ number has declined by more than 60% over the last 20 to 25 years. Even if all of the threats to western lowland gorillas were removed, scientists calculate that the population would require some 75 years recovering.
Western lowland gorillas are primarily vegetarians, eating fruits and plants and occasionally consuming insects—if they can be easily caught. Like other subspecies of gorilla, the western lowland gorilla spends most of its time on the ground but will climb trees to feed on ripe fruits and to make a sleeping nest.
Gorillas do not produce a great many offspring, since the females do not begin reproducing until age 9 or 10 and infants are dependent upon their mothers for up to five years. Gorillas typically live in family groups, consisting of several adult females and their offspring. The groups are led and protected by a dominant male known as a “silverback.”
Eastern lowland gorillas
The eastern lowland gorilla is the largest of the two lowland gorilla subspecies. It is distinguished from other gorillas by its stocky body, large hands and short muzzle. Despite its size, eastern lowland gorillas feed mainly on fruit and other herbaceous materials, just like other gorilla subspecies.
Years of civil unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have taken their toll on both the eastern lowland gorilla and the mountain gorilla. The eastern lowland gorilla makes its home in lowland tropical rainforests in the eastern DRC. This subspecies may now occupy only 13% of its historical range. There were nearly 17,000 eastern lowland gorillas in the mid-1990s but scientists estimate that the population has declined by more than 50% since then. An accurate accounting of the animals has been impossible for many years because of violence in the region.
Throughout the unrest, the gorillas have been vulnerable to poaching, even in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, home to the largest population of protected eastern lowland gorillas. Rebels and poachers invaded the park and people set up illegal mines.