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About the Virunga Gorillas

Nearly half of the world's 700-some remaining mountain gorillas live in the Virunga Mountains of central Africa, at the intersection of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The volcanic slopes here are lush with tropical forests and diverse mammal, bird, and reptile species—but they are also at the heart of a region in crisis.

Sandwiched between the 1994 Rwandan genocide and a brutal ongoing civil war in Congo, Virunga National Park, home to nearly 200 gorillas, has become a battleground for militia groups and the Congolese army. In addition, severe poverty in the region pushes poachers into the park to hunt gorillas for either meat or sale. Locals also generate income by cutting down trees to create charcoal—a nearly $30 million trade that wreaks havoc on critical habitat.

With the help of dedicated wildlife rangers, comprehensive monitoring, and community education programs, the endangered gorilla population in the Virungas experienced a nearly 20 percent increase in the early 2000s. But in 2007, at least ten gorillas in Virunga National Park were lost to murder and chaos.

Gorillas in other Virunga parks are faring a bit better, as is the other half of the world's remaining mountain gorilla population, which lives in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, just 15 miles (24 kilometers) north of the Virunga mountains.

For the Virunga gorillas, however, the future—and their survival—is uncertain.

Gorilla Features

  • Gorilla Charge

    A group of scientists gets charged by a family of wild gorillas.

  • Photo: Gorilla pounding chest

    Lowland Gorilla Family

    Kingo and his family of western lowland gorillas are giving researchers an intimate glimpse into their private lives.

  • Gorilla Poaching

    Wild African gorillas are hunted down and slaughtered for their meat with devastating results. Caution! Some images in this clip are of a disturbing nature.

  • Hanging With Gorillas

    A group of tourists lives out a fantasy trip: getting up close and personal with a family of wild gorillas on their own turf.