In anticipation of World Gorilla Day (Monday, September 24th), WCS is releasing a list of 10 facts on the world’s largest primates and one of humankind’s closest relatives. WCS scientists conduct research to inform conservation of the species and manage on-the-ground conservation projects across Africa to protect these great apes and their habitats. In New York City, WCS plays a vital role in giving millions of people the opportunity to see gorillas at its Bronx Zoo Congo Gorilla Forest, home to one of North America’s largest breeding groups of western lowland gorillas.

Gorilla lovers worldwide can help these majestic primates by contributing to WCS’s World Gorilla Day Fundraising effort.

Here are 10 facts on gorillas and WCS’s work to protect them.


1.      Gorillas are one of the closest relatives of modern humans, sharing with Homo sapiens some 98 percent of their DNA and a common ancestor that existed approximately 10 million years ago.

2.       There are two species of gorilla (western gorillas and eastern gorillas), each of which contain two sub-species: western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla); Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli), Grauer’s gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri), and mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei). All are Critically Endangered according to IUCN.

3.      The most endangered is the Cross River gorilla, numbering fewer than 300 individuals and found on the border of Nigeria and Cameroon.

4.      The most numerous gorilla is the western lowland gorilla, a subspecies numbering more than 360,000 individuals throughout the forests of Western Equatorial Africa according to recent estimates.

5.      According to a WCS study, the vast majority -- 80 percent -- of gorillas live outside of Africa’s protected areas.

6.      Gorillas are threatened by illegal hunting, habitat loss, and disease. A recent WCS study says that mining for valuable minerals in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a major driving factor in the illegal hunting of Grauer’s gorillas.

7.      The Congo Gorilla Forest exhibit at WCS’s Bronx Zoo has raised more than $15 million for field conservation in Africa since it opened in 1999.

8.      WCS Senior Conservationist Dr. George Schaller established the first field study on wild gorillas in the late 1950s, helping to debunk the myth of gorillas as aggressive animals and inspiring later research by scientists such as Dian Fossey.

9.      WCS Scientists working in Rwanda helped launch the first gorilla ecotourism program in 1979 as a means to raise funds and awareness for the imperiled mountain gorillas of Uganda, Rwanda, and Democratic Republic of Congo. Now known as the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, the initiative continues to promote the importance of conserving mountain gorillas and their habitat to the world.

10.  WCS has helped establish protected areas in Africa to protect gorillas and other rare wildlife throughout their range, including Nouabale-Ndoki and Ntokou-Pikounda National Parks in the Republic of Congo, an extended network of protected areas in Gabon, and several protected areas in Nigeria and Cameroon created specifically to safeguard the Cross River gorilla.