Eastern gorilla

Much larger than any other ape, it is the rarest of two gorillas species


The gaze of an eastern gorilla often strikes a profound chord with those fortunate enough to encounter one, illuminating a sense of kinship and mutual understanding that transcends the boundaries between species. This profound connection is rooted in the shared lineage that links humans with these majestic creatures, one of our closest living relatives in the animal kingdom. Over the years, scientific studies have significantly altered our perception of eastern gorillas, shifting the narrative from fear and misunderstanding to recognizing their gentle nature, complex social structures, and the shared vulnerabilities that connect us.

Eastern gorillas are the largest living primates, comprising both the mountain gorilla and the eastern lowland gorilla. They make their homes in the dense, remote forests stretching across the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), northwest Uganda, and southwest Rwanda. These gorillas are adapted to live within medium to high-elevation forests, where they navigate a landscape that offers them a varied diet depending on the elevation and seasonal availability of food sources.

The diet of eastern gorillas is predominantly herbivorous, consisting of a wide array of plant types, including wild celery, nettles, bedstraw, and various roots. These dietary preferences reflect the gorillas’ ability to exploit the diverse flora available in their habitats, ensuring their nutritional needs are met throughout the year. The choice of these plants is not only a testament to their adaptability but also underlines the gorillas’ role in their ecosystems as seed dispersers and contributors to the health of their forest homes.

Eastern gorillas lead highly social lives, organized into groups typically led by a dominant silverback male. These groups exhibit complex social dynamics and emotional bonds, with the silverback playing a central role in leading, protecting, and making decisions for the group. The social structure of gorilla groups is intricate, with relationships spanning beyond mere survival to include affection, play, and communal care for the young.

Two recognized subspecies-

  1. Grauer’s gorillas (formerly Eastern lowland): occurs in lowland tropical rainforest habitat with ~5% annual ongoing population decline.
  2. Mountain gorillas:>1,063 restricted to two populations (Virunga Massif and Bwindi-Sarambwe) only 25 km apart, isolated by dense settlements.


Population est.
DR Congo (Kinshasa)
Official estimate
Civil unrest
Official estimate
Official estimate

Recent updates

Feb 2022: The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in Rwanda reported successfully tracking a group of eastern gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park. The collaring will help researchers understand the gorillas’ movements and behavior and aid conservation efforts. 

Dec 2021: The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) announced that it had completed a census of eastern gorillas in Virunga National Park. The census counted a total of 604 gorillas, which is a 25% increase from the last count in 2010. The increase was attributed to successful conservation efforts in the park.

Nov 2021: According to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in the DRC, they had successfully reintroduced a group of rescued eastern gorillas into the wild. The gorillas had been rescued from the illegal wildlife trade and rehabilitated before being released into the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) center.

Did you know?

  • In 1994-95 there were an estimated 16,900 Grauer’s gorillas; today, they are less than 4000. 
  • Genetic diversity across the gorilla range is important. Low diversity may arise in small populations through increased inbreeding and, by reducing reproductive fitness, may lead to decreased chances of persistence of a given population. 
  • Although formerly known as the Eastern lowland gorilla, it can be found from approximately 600 to 2,900 m (0.4 – 1.8 miles) asl, overlapping considerably with the altitudinal range of Mountain gorillas. 
  • Gorillas are highly social. The Silverback named ‘Digit’, who fought and died to save his 13 family members from poachers and their dogs, was one of the main gorillas being studied.
  • Poachers generally snatch gorilla infants for pet trade/international markets; in such encounters, the family members and adult gorillas (this number may be more than 10 individuals) get killed in defending the baby.

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Get to know me

Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd / Troops

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No

Eastern gorilla on banknotes

Zaire 50,000 Zaires (1991)

Rwanda 5000 Francs

Rwanda 500 Francs