quotes I am a gorilla, and I want to talk to you: We are dying

18 June 2022
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Updated 18 June 2022

I am a gorilla, and I want to talk to you: We are dying

I am a mountain gorilla, and I am a mother. I need to speak urgently with you, my human cousins. Our common ancestor goes back just seven million years; as gorillas and humans, we share 98 percent of our DNA.

I have met many of you humans who come to visit us mountain gorillas in the parks of Rwanda and Uganda. Every time we meet, we feel a connection, a common understanding, and a common empathy toward our children and each other.

Your conservation efforts have allowed our mountain gorilla numbers to recover a little from less than 700 individuals 15 years ago to more than 1,000 today. While we are still endangered, it gives me hope. But our Eastern and Western gorilla cousins are still listed as critically endangered.

I think we need to have a talk.

We gorillas are not as good at communicating as you, mostly because to interact with each other effectively, we need just 25 vocalizations. You will know, though, that we communicate with our eyes and behavior, plain for all to see.

You humans have all the power, and you should use that power to be the protector of every living thing on this planet.

Hassan bin Youssef Yassin

We love our children just as you do. We are committed to protecting them, especially the strongest individual of our troop — the silverback — we are ready to fight to our last breath to protect them. Of course, we do not have tools or ambulances, but we have a big heart and a limitless commitment to protecting our children.

Without your tools or intellect, though, we have become very vulnerable to human advances and development, not only because of habitat loss but also by humans transmitting diseases and killing us for meat and trophies. You, humans, know none of us can rival your smarts.

Gorillas are the largest living primates, and while we may look imposing, we are a peaceful species. We live off foliage and fruit, occasionally some ants, and manage to resolve almost all conflicts between ourselves without resorting to violence.

Our populations, however, are easily disrupted, as we gorilla mothers can give birth only every four years, and this is only once we have reached 10 of the 40 years we may live in the wild.

If one of us dies, it will take more than a decade for that individual to be replaced. There are only 5,000 Eastern gorillas left today, having declined by more than 50 percent since the 1990s, and living in only 10 percent of the territory we once called our home.

While some 300,000 Western gorillas are left today, this still represents a decline of more than 60 percent since the beginning of the 21st century. We mountain gorillas may be getting all the attention and conservation efforts, but the reality is that already-fragile gorilla populations are dying out rapidly.

For millions of years, we gorillas lived well and comfortably. It is painful to admit that it is only since our closest cousin, the humans, started encroaching on our habitat that our very existence as a species is under threat.

You humans have all the power, and you should use that power to be the protector of every living thing on this planet.

Unfortunately, our planet is losing biodiversity daily as we continue to lose essential resources such as water, food, and healthy, fertile land. Not to mention the deadly pollution that has been spread by humans everywhere and the overexploitation of resources that has resulted in once plentiful oceans turning into a desolate graveyard.

Mother Nature is not happy, and we gorillas are only a small blip among the hundreds of thousands of species disappearing.

Since our common friend Dian Fossey came to help us and brought attention to our plight, we know that humans are trying to help. We are grateful for these efforts and for the conservation of habitats and protected lands you have affected.

Yet the problem is not just our habitat; it is the cumulative pressure humans put on life anywhere. The most recent research by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and Wildlife Conservation Society has shown that it is not ecological factors, but human factors, such as roads, population density and GDP that exert the greatest pressure on apes and most other species.

Indeed, 90 percent of apes live outside of protected areas and face the pressures of human life on a daily basis. The overextension of human activity and development threatens us all, including humans, who also increasingly suffer from diseases, pollution, and lack of resources.

Even your egg and sperm counts have dropped, forcing you to resort to fertility clinics to perpetuate your species.

I am just one of less than 350,000 gorillas still alive today, but the threats we face are the same that almost every other species — including humans — face on a planet you have pushed to the brink over one short century.

I wanted to speak with you about the situation we gorillas face as just one small part of the puzzle. I am sure other species would like to share their struggles with you in the future to remind you of the responsibility you humans bear toward all other species and the health of the planet we share.

We are all the same when it comes to valuing life and our children.

Unfortunately, you humans have not yet understood the extent of the damage you have already done and how it may already be too late to fully reverse this catastrophic situation.

You have the power to express your sympathy and empathy through actions, while ours are expressed more simply — but just as genuinely — in a silent look.

Perhaps you should consider the words of Francine Patterson, who described us gorillas as: “Uncontaminated by humans, they are definitely closer to living in the now. Our problem is that we live in the past, and we live in the future, but we very rarely dwell in the now. They are so much in harmony with nature, we surely could use them as a model.”

Hassan bin Youssef Yassin worked with Saudi petroleum ministers Abdullah Tariki and Ahmed Zaki Yamani from 1959 to 1967. He headed the Saudi Information Office in Washington from 1972 to 1981, and served with the Arab League observer delegation to the UN from 1981 to 1983.