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Gorilla population decimated by decades of war in Democratic Republic of Congo

The world’s largest population of Grauer’s gorilla, also known as eastern lowland gorillas, have plummeted in the midst of a nearly two-decade civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A new report estimates a 77 to 93 percent decline in this gorilla subspecies population.

In 1998, there were an estimated 17,000 of these majestic great apes in the DRC; today there are around 3,800, according to a conjoint report by the Wildlife Conservation Society, Flora and Fauna International and the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature. The report points to unsettling conflict in the region.

The report states that since 1959 gorilla numbers were exacerbated by the thousands of refugees fleeing from the Rwandan genocide, two civil wars in DRC and high levels of insecurity. Other precursors to the gorillas’ downfall are the depletion of their environment and illegal hunting.

The report advocates that the DRC government and surrounding regions cooperate more and gather increased funding in order to reverse the gorillas’ future existence. Andrew Plumptre, the study’s lead author, told The Guardian that the government is taking some action, but more needs to be done.

“The DRC army has been going into the Kahuzi-Biega national park and trying to chase out armed groups. But they don’t maintain a long-term presence. Also, if the army find mining sites, they start managing those sites,” he said.

Eastern lowland gorillas live in the lowland tropical rainforests in the eastern DRC. According to the World Wildlife Fund, loss of habitat and poaching, as well as the spread of the Ebola virus are a threat to all gorilla subspecies.

In addition to preserving their habitat and the species, the Wildlife Conservation Society hopes to research how Ebola is transmitted between Gorillas, according to the WCS website.

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