HabitatWhere do Gorillas live?

Where do Gorillas live?

  • Gorilla distribution (© Angela Meder)

Gorillas live exclusively in the tropical rain forests of Africa. Their distribution range is divided into two parts - almost 900 km separates the western and the eastern gorillas. The reason for this is probably that a formerly uniform area was split at some point, most likely during the ice ages. At that time, climatic changes caused the rain forest to shrink into a few refuge areas. The savannah, which spread between these refuge areas, was not an appropriate habitat for gorillas. Later, when the rain forest spread again over the whole of the African tropics, gorillas could only advance to the Ubangi and Congo Rivers.

As western and eastern gorillas have been separated for such a long time, they have followed separate development paths. Today, they differ distinctly both in their external characteristics and in their genetic material.

Although the borders of the gorillas' distribution area seem to have changed little over the last few decades, the habitat of this ape species has been fragmented and encroached considerably as forested areas are increasingly reduced and isolated from each other by cultivation. From some regions gorillas have already disappeared altogether because the forest has been destroyed. Therefore they often are confined in small and isolated forest islands.