Global warming deprives mountain gorillas of water sources

(ORDO NEWS) — Rising average annual temperatures are forcing critically endangered mountain gorillas to drink more fluids. However, their specific range does not guarantee the availability of water sources for all groups of animals, and this may be critical for the survival of the species.

Scientists from the Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology of the Max Planck Society (Germany) have been observing the only two remaining populations of mountain gorillas for ten years.

It turned out that the increase in average annual temperatures forced the monkeys to drink water much more often, which indicates a strong influence of climate change on their behavior and can have serious consequences for the survival of the species.

The mountain gorilla ( Gorilla beringei beringei ) is a subspecies of the eastern gorilla. Today, only two populations of mountain gorillas have survived in the world, which inhabit the tropical forests of Central Africa.

One of them lives in the Virunga volcanic mountains on the border of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the second – in the south-west of Uganda, in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.

Mountain gorillas are listed in the Red Book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature as an endangered species. Now there are only about a thousand of these animals left, which constantly face threats such as poaching and habitat destruction.

The high altitude range makes gorillas more susceptible to rising temperatures. As a rule, these monkeys receive most of the necessary liquid along with plant foods. However, warming makes them dependent on separate water sources.

Therefore, understanding where animals get their water from is extremely important for the conservation of the species.

The scientists observed the behavior of mountain gorillas from two populations from 2010 to 2020, and compared the information obtained with data on temperature and precipitation during the observation period.

Representatives of both populations began to consume significantly more water as the average annual temperatures increased. It allowed the animals to cool their bodies more efficiently and maintain their own temperature in the range necessary for survival.

Dependence on water sources has important implications, as frequent drinking from puddles, swamps, and streams can lead to exposure to parasites and pathogens. At the same time, the limited range of mountain gorillas does not guarantee the constant availability of water for each of the groups of primates.

Previous studies have shown that about 22% of all monkey species are vulnerable to the effects of drought. In addition, the often specific and isolated habitat of many primates is more vulnerable to climate warming. Scientists estimate that by 2050, the average temperature in mountain gorilla habitats will increase by 1-2.5 degrees Celsius.

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