Why They Matter
Our Closest Cousins
Gorillas share 98.3% of their DNA with humans, making them our closest cousins after chimpanzees and bonobos. These charismatic, intelligent animals often surprise us with behaviors and emotions so similar to our human experience.
Gorillas Help Maintain Forests
Gorillas are mainly vegetarian and spend almost half of the day feeding on stems, bamboo shoots, and a variety of fruits, supplemented with bark and invertebrates. Gorillas play a key role in maintaining the biodiversity of their forest homes by spreading the seeds of the trees they eat and by opening up gaps in the trees as they move around, letting in light and helping sun-loving plants grow.
Protecting Gorilla Habitat Helps Humans
In Central Africa, humans depend on the same environment as gorillas for their food, water, medicine, and other forest products. Protecting the tropical forests of the Congo Basin where the gorillas live also conserves these forests and their resources on which the local and indigenous people of the region depend. The Congo Basin is home to the second largest tropical rainforest on Earth, which serves as the green heart of Africa. Moisture generated by this forest falls as rain in the United States, meaning that the impact of the loss of this forest will be felt globally.