9 Best Charities for Protecting Gorillas (Complete 2021 List)

9 Best Charities for Protecting Gorillas (Complete 2021 List)

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Dennis Kamprad

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Due to relentless poaching efforts and the lucrative bushmeat trade, gorilla populations have plummeted in the last few decades. Both gorilla species are now critically endangered. In 1981, the number of mountain gorillas living in the Virunga volcanic mountain range was estimated to be just 253 individuals. However, thanks to the relentless efforts of charities around the globe, populations of this iconic species are now on the increase. So we had to ask: What are the best charities for protecting gorillas?

The best charities for protecting gorillas in terms of overall impact are the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and the African Wildlife Foundation. Charities such as Gorilla Doctors and the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance do amazing work providing sanctuary and veterinary care to injured and orphaned gorillas. 

Whether you want to ensure these iconic animals are around for future generations to appreciate or you want to make sure that no gorilla is killed through poaching or the bushmeat trade, there is a charity for you. Keep reading to learn more about what the best charities for protecting gorillas are all about, how they work, and what your best way would be to make a contribution.

Here’s What All the Best Charities for Protecting Gorillas Have in Common

The charities on this list were chosen based on their mission, impact and transparency ratings, and achievements. They operate across Rwanda, the Congo, and Uganda to protect the world’s remaining gorilla populations from poaching, trafficking, and habitat loss. 

Many of these charities focus their efforts on educating local communities and training rangers to conduct regular anti-poaching patrols. Others provide veterinary care to gorillas that have been injured as a result of wildlife crime activities and provide sanctuary for orphaned infants. Yet all of them share the same goal – to ensure that gorillas thrive in the wild once more. 

These Are the 9 Best Charities for Protecting Gorillas

Below are our favorite charities for protecting gorillas (you can click on their link to directly jump to their section in this article):

  • The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International
  • African Wildlife Foundation
  • Pan African Sanctuary Alliance
  • Gorilla Doctors
  • World Wildlife Fund
  • Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Organization
  • The Gorilla Organization
  • Fauna & Flora International
  • Born Free Foundation

(At the end of this article we’ll also share our six-step approach on how you can select the best charity to support.)

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International: Helping People. Saving Gorillas

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International was inspired by the work of Dian Fossey which began in 1967. In September of that year, she set up the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda’s Virunga Mountains, which led to one of the longest-running studies of any animal in the world. Since her passing in 1985, her legacy has lived on in The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, which is dedicated to the protection and study of mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.

Their impact and transparency ratings: The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International holds the Gold Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, as well as a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator.

“Dedicated to the conservation, protection, and study of gorillas and their habitats in Africa.”

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International

What they do: The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International studies and protects over half of the mountain gorillas in Rwanda. Every morning Rwandan Fossey Fund trackers locate groups of gorillas, visually health check them, and study their behavior. This has only been made possible because the gorillas have become habituated to human presence, thanks to Dian Fossey. The charity has also set up anti-poaching teams in the area, and offers training opportunities to inspiring young conservationists in Rwanda and the Congo.

What they’ve achieved: The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International now protects over 350,000 acres of gorilla habitat. In 2012 the charity expanded their efforts to protect 6 Grauer gorilla families in 700km of forest in the Congo, as well as the mountain gorillas. By 2019, the charity was able to almost double the size of the Nkuba Conservation area to 1,300km and bring the mountain gorilla population up to 1,063 individuals. In 2020, the Rwandan anti-poaching teams removed 2.500 snares from vital gorilla habitat which resulted in 0 gorillas being caught in snares throughout the entire year. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International through their website. You can also support the charity by symbolically adopting a gorilla, or you can purchase supplies needed by the charity through their Amazon Wishlist.  

African Wildlife Foundation: Protecting Africa’s Most Threatened Species

The African Wildlife Foundation was founded in 1961 by Russell E. Train. Russell set up the charity because he was concerned that fully-trained European National Park managers would be replaced by untrained local individuals after 20 African countries gained independence. He felt it was essential that these new managers were trained to become wildlife professionals so he began funding training programs for them. Today, the African Wildlife Trust trains rangers to intercept anti-poaching efforts and tackles poverty in local communities to reduce the poaching of gorillas and other endangered animals.

Their impact and transparency ratings: The African Wildlife Foundation has a 3-star rating from Charity Navigator. According to their financial report, the charity spent 87% of its income on conservation programs, 10% on fundraising, and 3% on administration.

“Working to ensure wildlife and wildlands thrive in modern Africa.”

African Wildlife Foundation

What they do: The African Wildlife Foundation trains law enforcement officers and wildlife rangers to combat wildlife crime and poaching efforts aimed at mountain gorillas. In addition, the charity has constructed tourism lodges for people to view mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. This has encouraged local communities to view these animals in a positive light and provided much-needed financial support to local villages.

What they’ve achieved: Thanks to the tourism efforts of the African Wildlife Foundation in Rwanda, the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge has raised over $3.3 million since 2006. This money has gone towards educating and supporting local communities as well as conservation efforts for mountain gorillas. In 2018, the charity purchased 27.8 hectares of land adjacent to the Volcanoes National Park and donated it to the Rwandan government to extend gorilla habitat. As a result, the mountain gorilla population has seen a 26.3% increase in 7 years. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the African Wildlife Foundation through their website, or you can support the charity by setting up your own fundraiser.

Pan African Sanctuary Alliance: A Global Movement To Save Africa’s Primates

The Pan African Sanctuary Alliance was founded in 2000 by the African Wildlife Centers, as a partnership between wildlife sanctuaries across Africa. The charity was set up because many sanctuaries were facing technical challenges as well as a lack of funding. Today, the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance is the largest association of wildlife centers in Africa, caring for many primate species including gorillas. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: Pan African Sanctuary Alliance holds the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar. They also have an 82% encompass rating for Finance and Accountability from Charity Navigator.

“A united force to protect Africa’s primates, empower local communities, and preserve habitat.”

Pan African Sanctuary Alliance

What they do: The Pan African Sanctuary Alliance provides funding and support to 23 primate sanctuaries across 13 countries in Africa. These include the Fernan-Vaz Gorilla Project which saves gorillas from poachers and the bushmeat trade. PASA members give immediate veterinary care to injured primates and offer a fast emergency response to sanctuaries affected by flooding, damaged fencing, and fires. The charity also works closely with local law enforcement agencies to arrest wildlife smugglers and confiscate illegally captured animals. 

What they’ve achieved: To date, the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance has saved over 4000 primates, provided 700 jobs for African residents in local communities, and has spent over $500,000 on environmental education for local people every year. The 23 sanctuaries they support, care for over 3082 primates including gorillas and chimpanzees. In 2020, the charity was able to re-release 162 primates back into the wild and provided veterinary care for 190 individuals. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance through their website. You can also become a Primate Protector by donating monthly, or you support the charity by volunteering.  

Gorilla Doctors: Saving A Species One Gorilla At A Time

Gorilla Doctors was founded in 1986 by Dr. James Foster who was hired by Dian Fossey in 1985 to be the resident veterinarian at her new Volcanoes Veterinary clinic for gorillas in Rwanda. Unfortunately, she died before the project could be completed so James completed the build and set up a veterinary program to reverse the decline of mountain gorillas. Today, the charities’ veterinarians monitor and protect gorilla populations in all 3 of their native countries. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: According to their financial report, Gorilla Doctors spent 87% of its income on gorilla conservation programs and health care, and 13% on administration. 

“Dedicated to saving the mountain and eastern lowland (Grauer’s) gorilla species one gorilla patient at a time.”

Gorilla Doctors

What they do: Gorilla Doctors is the only organization in the world exclusively dedicated to conserving mountain and eastern lowland gorillas through direct veterinary care, science, and a one health approach. They also rescue and rehabilitate mountain and Grauer’s gorillas that have been orphaned by poachers. Their 11 trained veterinarians track and offer veterinary assistance to mountain gorilla groups in 2 key protected areas; the Virunga Volcanoes Massif, Bwindi National Park, and Grauer’s gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega National Park and the Mt. Tshiabirimu area of Virunga National Park.

What they’ve achieved: A 2010 census performed on the gorillas in the Virunga Massif showed an impressive population increase of 26.3% in seven years, thanks to the work of Gorilla Doctors, alongside other conservation charities. A 2011 study in the same area saw a 4.1% annual increase in populations for habituated gorillas, compared to a 0.7% drop for unhabituated gorillas. This shows that Dian Fossey’s work has directly impacted gorilla populations, which is being continued by Gorilla Doctors. Between July 2019 and June 2020, Gorilla Doctors performed 272 health checks and monitored 54 groups of gorillas in three countries and five national parks.

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to Gorilla Doctors through their website. You can also support the charity by becoming a symbolic Gorilla Guardian, or by purchasing items from their online shop.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF): Taking Action For Our World

The World Wildlife Fund was founded in 1961 by a group of scientists and conservationists including Sir Peter Scott and Sir Julian Huxley, to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment. Today, the organization is the world’s largest conservation organization with over 5 million supporters worldwide and conservation projects in over 100 countries that protect endangered species such as tigers, rhinos, and all four subspecies of gorillas. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: The World Wildlife Fund holds the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, as well as a 3-star rating from Charity Navigator.

“To create a world where people and wildlife can thrive together.”

WWF

What they do: The World Wildlife Fund is dedicated to protecting and conserving the world’s most endangered and iconic species by collaborating with like-minded organizations, working with local communities, and campaigning to end wildlife markets. Because poaching is such a big threat to vulnerable gorilla populations, the WWF has collaborated with TRAFFIC (the largest wildlife trade monitoring network in the world) to monitor and intercept the illegal trafficking of gorillas, and advocate for more effective wildlife protection laws. They have also trained local wildlife authorities in modern anti-poaching methods and educated local communities on the dangers of eating bushmeat.

What they’ve achieved: Thanks to the work of WWF, gorilla populations in the Virunga mountains have seen a 17% increase over the last 14 years. Since its launch in 2018, the WWFs’ Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online has blocked or removed over 3 million listings for endangered animals and products. The WWF has also worked with officials in Nigeria and Cameroon to establish a protected area, with ranger posts, for the least known subspecies of gorilla – the Cross River gorilla.

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the WWF through their website or you can adopt an animal to fund the work of the charity. You can also visit WWF’s online shop where 100% of the profits go directly to the charity.

Gorilla Rehabilitation And Conservation Education Organization (GRACE): Protecting Grauer’s Gorillas

The Gorilla Rehabilitation And Conservation Education Center, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was established in 2009. The charity was set up by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International to conserve and protect the critically endangered Grauer’s gorillas. Today, the charity cares for Grauer’s gorillas that have been rescued from poachers and works alongside local communities to conserve their habitat.

Their impact and transparency ratings: The Gorilla Rehabilitation And Conservation Education Organization holds the Bronze Seal of Transparency from GuideStar. The charity also has an 80% encompass rating for finance and accountability from Charity Navigator.

“A healthy stable population of wild Grauer’s gorillas in the Congo that is no longer threatened.”

Gorilla Rehabilitation And Conservation Education Organization

What they do: The Gorilla Rehabilitation And Conservation Education Organization provides 24-hour specialist care to gorilla infants that have been orphaned by poachers. Once they are old enough and healthy enough, the infants are then integrated into a larger group that the charity protects in their natural habitat. The charity also runs numerous education programs and conservation clubs in local communities, to build knowledge and respect for these animals.

What they’ve achieved: The Gorilla Rehabilitation And Conservation Education Organization has built the largest gorilla enclosures in the world. Located in former Grauer gorilla habitat, the sanctuary protects orphaned infants until they are old enough to be introduced back into the wild. In 2019, the charity launched its pioneering 24/7 live stream, by installing several cameras throughout their 39-acre protected site. Not many people have heard of Grauer’s gorillas so it is hoped that this project will raise awareness of their plight. In the same year, they became the only African Sanctuary to be fully accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Gorilla Rehabilitation And Conservation Education Organization through their website. Alternatively, you can symbolically adopt one of their orphaned gorillas through their Virtual Adoption Program.

The Gorilla Organization: A New Approach To Gorilla Conservation

The Gorilla Organization was founded in 1992 by Dian Fossey, to support anti-poaching patrols in Africa. Today, the charity is carrying on Dian’s legacy by working with local communities to provide conservation education to school children, remove deadly snares, and is dedicated to planting millions of trees to expand vital gorilla habitat.

Their impact and transparency ratings: According to the Charity Commission for England and Wales, the Gorilla Organization spent 54% of its income on raising funds and 46% on charitable activities.

“Saving gorillas and transforming lives.”

The Gorilla Organization

What they do: The Gorilla Organization funds the work of local rainforest rangers in the Congo, who remove snares, save injured gorillas, combat poaching efforts, and collect vital conservation data for gorilla populations. The charities’ innovative pedal-powered cinemas have allowed them to show school children educational videos on protecting gorillas, even in the most remote locations. They also invest heavily in self-sustainable farming methods for local communities, such as organic farming and tree nursery plots.

What they’ve achieved: Within four years, the charities’ Stop the Snares project has reduced the number of snares in South Bwindi Impenetrable National Park from 800 to 0. The Gorilla Organization has also educated 1,135 local school children through their innovative conservation education programs. So far, the charity has planted over 1 million trees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to increase gorilla habitat and reduce gorilla-human contact.

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Gorilla Organization through their website. You can also support the charity by symbolically adopting a gorilla or purchasing items from their online shop.

Fauna & Flora International: Biodiversity Champions

Fauna & Flora International was set up in 1903 by a group of British and American men in colonies in Africa, including Edward Buxton who had previously sought to protect wildlife areas of the UK. The original goal of the society was to safeguard the future of Africa’s large mammal species, including gorillas. Since 1971, they have been supporting mountain gorilla conservation, alongside Africa’s other flagstone species.

Their impact and transparency ratings: Fauna & Flora International has a Gold Seal of Transparency from GuideStar and a 93 out of 100 encompass rating from Charity Navigator.

“To conserve threatened species and ecosystems worldwide.”

Fauna & Flora International

What they do: Fauna & Flora International tackles species and habitat decline, as well as threats to wildlife including poaching and the bushmeat trade. They do this through advocacy, anti-poaching efforts, and by educating local communities. In 1979, alongside David Attenborough and other like-minded charities, Fauna & Flora International set up The International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP). As part of the initiative, the charity has increased cross-border collaboration between the three countries in which mountain gorillas roam, reduced poaching efforts, and protected vital habitats for gorillas in the area.

What they’ve achieved: As a result of the International Gorilla Conservation Program, representatives from all three countries where gorillas roam, signed a treaty in 2015 to make transboundary conservation efforts easier. This landmark event has also enabled more coordinated conservation efforts to take place, including landscape planning and standardized protection policies for the mountain gorilla. Since the program was launched, gorilla populations have risen from a few hundred to over 1000 individuals.

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to Fauna & Flora International through their website. Alternatively, you can sign up to become a member of the charity by donating a set amount monthly or annually, where you will receive annual updates on their work and achievements. 

Born Free Foundation: Animals Thriving In The Wild

The Born Free Foundation was founded by Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers in 1984. Both Virginia and Bill were actors who starred in a conservation film alongside an elephant calf named Pole Pole. In 1969, Pole Pole was gifted to the London Zoo however Bill and Virginia were horrified at the distressed state she was in when they visited her. This experience inspired the launch of Zoo Check which eventually became the Born Free Foundation. Today, Born Free is an international charity that works to protect and conserve wild and captive animals in all corners of the globe, including gorillas.

Their impact and transparency ratings: The American branch of the Born Free Foundation holds the Gold Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, as well as a 3-star rating from Charity Navigator

“Ensuring all wild animals are treated with compassion and respect and are able to live their lives according to their needs.”

Born Free Foundation

What they do: The Born Free Foundation campaigns heavily against the wildlife and bushmeat trades that threaten the last remaining populations of great apes. The charity is a long-standing partner of the Limbe Wildlife Center in Cameroon which cares for over 360 animals, most of which are gorilla infants that have been orphaned by the bushmeat trade. The charity also provides vital funding to the Grauer’s Gorilla Conservation Initiative that researches, monitors, and protects the species in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the Congo.

What they’ve achieved: Today, Born Free Foundation runs conservation initiatives, education outreach programs, and animal sanctuaries in 20 countries around the world. At the end of 2020, after months of campaigning by the Born Free Foundation, Cameroon canceled plans to allow logging in the Ebo forest which is a haven for mountain gorillas. As of 2020, the charity now protects and closely monitors 13 groups of gorillas consisting of 165 individuals in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Born Free Foundation through their website. You can also support the charity by adopting an animal or by purchasing items from their online shop

How Can You Select the Best Charities to Support?

The charities on the list are, we deem, the best charities for protecting gorillas. However, you may have a particular charity you want to support. Let’s look at what you can do to ensure your contribution has the most significant impact.

  • Check out the charity website. Charities that are worthy of your donations are transparent in their mission and their figures. Familiarise yourself with their history, mission, and values. Their website usually is the best place to start.
  • Identify the charity’s mission. Without a goal, the charity is likely to fail. If the charity’s mission isn’t clear, it’s probably worth looking for a charity that does have a clear mission. 
  • Check if the charity has measurable goals. An effective charity has clear goals. You want to know your donation will help the charity reach its goals. But if it doesn’t have targets, it’s likely to fail or squander your gift. The charity should be able to account for its spending and supply evidence of the work they do.
  • Assess the successes or goals the charity has achieved. You wouldn’t invest in a business if it kept missing its targets. In the same way, charities are like this too. If no one is assessing the progress a charity makes in reaching its targets, the chances are not making positive change.
  • Check the charity’s financials and stats. Trustworthy organizations will publish financial statements and reports each year. Some might be exempt from having to do so, but they should be able to provide them to public members who are interested in donating.
  • Locate sources who work with or benefit from the charity. Word of mouth and first-hand experience of a charity’s work lets you know the charity’s quality. If you’re able to do so, check out the charity for yourself or speak to someone familiar with it. This way, your donation will go to the right place. 

How Can You Best Support These Charities?

After you’ve made your decision, it’s time for you to decide on how you’d like to help the charities you’ve chosen. Check how you can help – each charity runs specific programs that have unique aims. Find out what the aim of such programs is and whether they are right for you. 

Here are a few ways you can help your chosen charity:

  • Donate money. You can find donation pages on the website of most charities. Your donation can be a one-time payment, or you can set it to be deducted regularly at different intervals. You can mostly pay via credit card, but some charities also take PayPal or Bitcoin payments.
  • Buy their official merchandise. The charities can also raise money by selling merchandise. So, you can support them by buying the mugs, shirts, caps, pens, pencils, and any other such items they may be selling. Ideally, you should buy as much as you can to share and spread the word about the charity’s activities.
  • Donate a percentage of your online purchases. If you bought anything on sites like Amazon lately, you’d find a prompt asking you to donate to your favorite charities through their Amazon Smile program. You can set this up so that your chosen charities will get a fraction of your online purchases.
  • Engage in volunteer work. As you’ve seen from our descriptions above, some charities engage in a lot of local and grassroots programs. You can help by taking on and organizing the program in your local area.
  • Help their fundraising efforts. You can spread the word about the charity in your workplace, school, church, etc., and hold creative fundraising drives on social media or offline within your small circles.
  • Share their stories. Most charities have compelling stories that you can share with your audience to attract more people to the cause.

Final Thoughts

Now it is just up to you to select the charity that resonates most with you. And whichever charity you end up choosing and contributing to, we are sure that they will immensely appreciate your support. Hopefully, the information within this article has made this selection process a bit easier for you to support charities dedicated to protecting gorillas – based on the causes that matter most to you.

Stay impactful,



PS: Finally, I want to leave you with a thought-provoking TED talk from Dan Pallotta, a leading philanthropic activist, and fundraiser, about what is wrong with the way we think about charities – and what we can do about it:

Sources

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