Grauer’s gorilla Congo, world’s largest primate, vanishing

April 5, 2016 | By Garrett Montgomery More

Congo’s Grauer’s gorilla, also known as Eastern lowland gorilla, is disappearing due to the ongoing war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to experts, the civil war has claimed 5 million of Grauer’s gorillas in Congo and up to 6 million human lives since the 1990s.

Grauer's gorilla Congo

Congo’s Grauer’s gorilla population is vanishing, but thankfully few actions can be taken to help the species. A new study from the Fauna & Flora International and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) revealed that the Grauer’s gorilla, also known as the Eastern lowland gorilla, is now a threatened group of animals.

The experts discovered that there has been a 77% drop in gorilla numbers from an estimated 17,000 in 1995 to just 3,800 creatures today. It is estimated that more than 5 million Grauer’s gorillas have died in mountainous forests of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The reasons?

The Congolese Civil Wars, mining, and deforestation are often blamed. In 1996, civil wars began in the African country because the people wanted to end Mobutu Sese Seko‘s destructive 31-year reign. According to experts, “the wars which ended in 2003 ultimately involved nine African nations, multiple groups of UN peacekeepers and twenty armed groups” and it led to the deaths of almost 6 million people.

The Grauer’s gorillas, which are the world’s largest gorilla subspecies weighing up to 400 pounds, were killed during illegal hunting and bushmeat trade, the deforestation of the country by natives and those fleeing Rwandan genocide of 1994. Congo’s Grauer’s gorilla population is also hurt by miners and criminals, who illegally catch and sell them on the black market as pets. According to researchers, most of the time, to snatch a baby, poachers will kill the entire gorilla family.

Jean-Claude Muhindo, WWF’s DRC Country Director, had the following to say on the devastating decline of the species:

“The catastrophic decline in Grauer’s gorillas is a clear wake-up call for the Congolese government and the broader conservation community: act now or watch one of our closest relatives slide rapidly towards extinction. At the current loss rate, and without urgent, innovative action, Grauer’s gorillas could be gone in the next six years.”

The study’s lead author, Andrew Plumptre, of WCS, shared a long list of measures that can be taken to fix the problem:

“We urge the government of DRC to actively secure and manage this part of the country for both human welfare as well as the survival of this gorilla. Significantly greater efforts must be made for the government to regain control of this region of DRC.”

Plumptre is hoping that by educating people on conservation efforts, getting the support of the local government and community participation, his organization can turn the tide. He gave the following steps to be taken:

-Legally gazette the boundaries of Itombwe Reserve and Punia Gorilla reserve
-Tackle illegal mining inside protected areas and pursue the legal establishment of artisanal mining cooperatives in areas close to gorilla habitats
-Disarm militia groups operating in the region
-Support park staff and community ecoguards that they are protecting gorillas and their habitat
-Find alternative sources of income for local people other than employment from mining
-Lobby mobile phone/tablet/computer companies and others to ensure that source minerals from this region are purchased from mining sites that do not hunt bushmeat and are conflict free

The WWF is collaborating with the International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP) and other communities in the region to save the Grauer’s gorillas and their habitat.

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