Tuesday 12 April 2016

Grauer’s gorilla: world's largest great ape being wiped out by war

Report reveals dramatic decline in numbers of Grauer’s gorilla in in war-torn eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

Tuesday 5 April 201616.05 BSTLast modified on Tuesday 5 April 201622.00 BST

Numbers of the world’s largest great ape have dropped dramatically from a population of 17,000 in 1995 to 3,800 today, according to new research. 

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Fauna and Flora International believe their findings in a report published this week justify raising the status of the Grauer’s gorilla (G. b. graueri) to “critically endangered” on the IUCN’s red list of threatened species.

The subspecies of gorilla - also known as the Eastern lowland gorilla - is only found in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Weighing up to 180kg, they are closely related to mountain gorillas.

War in the region has affected wildlife through increased deforestation, and the area has seen an increase in the illegal bushmeat trade and illegal mining. Conservationists also blame the expansion in mining for coltan - a key mineral used in the manufacturing of mobile phones - for contributing to the gorilla’s decline.

There is a human cost too - WCS reports that on 31 March, a guard was killed by armed rebels in an ambush in Kahuzi-Biega national park, the only site where the study found the gorillas were increasing in number.

Radar Nishuli, the park’s chief warden and co-author of the report, said: “What we have found in the field is extremely worrying. We are urging a strong and targeted response that addresses the following: Train, support and equip eco-guards to tackle poaching more effectively; build intelligence networks, and support the close daily monitoring of gorilla families to ensure their protection; engage customary chiefs who hold traditional power in the region to educate their communities to stop hunting these apes.”

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