By Houston Zoo

The Western lowland gorillas are the smallest of the four-gorilla subspecies. Most known for their shorter black-brown coats, wider skulls and a prominent brow ridge, this species of gorilla can be found in central and West Africa. While they are primarily herbivores, eating leaves and stems, shrubs, and fruits, they also consume protein from invertebrates found on those leaves and fruits.

The western lowland gorillas can live upwards of 35-40 years in the wild and up to 50 years in human care. Many factors play a role in a gorilla’s lifespan including poaching, destruction of habitat, and disease. Houston Zoo helps save gorillas by recycling electronics to avoid habitat destruction and supporting wildlife conservation partners, including Gorilla Doctors.

Gorilla Doctors started in the mid-80s as a catalyst for change, the dream of American gorilla researcher Dian Fossey. At the time, research indicated there were less than 300 mountain gorillas remaining in the world. Today, the Gorilla Doctors team is made up of more than a dozen veterinarians in all three countries in which mountain gorillas live and provide life-saving veterinarian care for ill or injured gorillas living in national parks of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In 2011, Gorilla Doctors partnered with Medical Decision Logic to form a database to help track and monitor gorillas, with Houston Zoo’s support, by receiving education, training, and equipment to execute their vision.

The Wildlife Warrior and Gorilla Doctor, Dr. Noel is among the veterinarians inspired to continue the work of Dr. Fossey. Dr. Noel joined Gorilla Doctors in Rwanda as a laboratory technician in 2009 and was promoted to Field Veterinarian for Rwanda where he assists with monitoring and care for mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. In 2017, Dr. Noel received the Wildlife Warrior Award for his contributions to saving these magnificent creatures in the wild. This award grants the recipient funding for their organization, including a visit to Houston Zoo to expand their knowledge and work alongside Zoo veterinarian staff. 

 How can you save gorillas in the wild?  

Houston Zoo encourages recycling of cell phones and electronics. Electronic devices contain a material called tantalum that is mined in areas where gorillas live. By reusing and recycling electronics, together we can decrease the amount of mining and protect gorilla habitats. Houston Zoo recycles approximately 1,500 cell phones annually to help stop the need to mine in these vital habitats. 

Another way guests can take part in gorilla conservation starts by purchasing one of Houston Zoo’s $2 conservation bracelets. One hundred percent of the proceeds from conservation bracelet sales are donated to organizations dedicated to saving wildlife, like Gorillas Doctors.