Grauer's Gorilla

Grauer's Gorilla Photo
©Hugues Ducenne

Grauer’s gorilla, also known as the eastern lowland gorilla, lives exclusively in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, which has endured more than a decade of warfare and instability. This subspecies is closely related to the mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei), but Grauer’s gorilla tends to inhabit forests at lower elevations and eats more fruit.

Gorillas are the largest primates in the world, and Grauer’s is the largest of the four gorilla types. Males can weigh more than 500 pounds. As large forest mammals that feed predominantly on vegetation, they are an important influence on the natural composition of plant communities.

Fast Facts

Scientific NameGorilla beringei graueri
  • Grauer’s gorillas live in roving groups of from 5 to 30 members, led by an experienced “silverback” male (sexually mature male gorillas have an expanse of glossy, silver fur on their backs.
  • A single animal may consume as much 40 pounds of food per day.
  • Noted WCS conservationist George Schaller was part of a team that conducted the first survey of Grauer’s gorilla in 1959.


Grauer’s gorilla is listed as endangered on IUCN’s Red List and may now number fewer than 8,000. In 1995, the overall population of Grauer’s gorillas was estimated at 17,000 animals. However, shortly thereafter, political conflict spread over the gorillas’ entire range, and many local gorilla populations disappeared.

In eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, agricultural activities are causing massive loss and fragmentation of forest habitat. Widespread illegal gold and coltan mining activities in the forests increase levels of subsistence hunting for bushmeat, and illegal capture of infants (during which other group members are often killed) is also a concern. Ongoing political unrest and military activity, including occupation of national parks, compound the problems. As parts of the country emerge from civil war, new concessions for timber, minerals, and possibly petroleum may also pose conservation challenges.

WCS Responds

Since 1996, the frequent presence of armed rebels in the species’ range has limited research into its habits and numbers. However, WCS field conservationists have made use of periods of calm to gain insights. They recently discovered evidence of this gorilla’s presence in the Itombwe region of DRC, an important center of biodiversity 30 miles south of the previous known range, as well as in Kahuzi-Biega National Park. The discovery has provided new hope for the species’ survival and impetus to protect its habitat in Africa’s Albertine Rift area.

WCS conservationists are monitoring the populations to determine their status and needs. Establishing where gorillas occur, how abundant they are, the degree of connectivity between populations, the factors that influence their distribution, and the threats to their survival is essential to developing a realistic management strategy.

WCS Projects

Ecoguards of Central Africa

As the eyes and ears for conservationists, ecoguards work not only to protect national parks and surrounding lands, but also to help evaluate the success of international conservation efforts.

From the Newsroom

New Signs of World’s Least Known GorillaJune 12, 2009

Researchers from WCS find nests made by eastern lowland gorillas outside of their known range in the Itombwe forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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