04 April 2016

Last year we introduced you to our Africa programme coordinator, Stuart Nixon, and explained how the research he’d conducted from over a decade of fieldwork in eastern DR Congo, had been used to classify the Grauer’s gorilla as one of the most endangered primates in the world.

Grauer's gorilla Photo credit: Stuart Nixon
Grauer’s gorilla Photo credit: Stuart Nixon

The full results of Stuart’s research and that of other collaborating partners have now been published in a Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Fauna and Flora International (FFI) report and the outcomes are shocking.

There has been a 77% decline in population for the Grauer’s gorilla – from 17,000 in 1994 to just 3,800 today, and between a 22-45% population decline for the eastern chimpanzee. Stuart and the other co-authors on the paper were driven to re-assess the status of the Grauer’s gorilla following the civil unrest that broke out in the DRC in 1996 and still continues in the east of the country.

The war has had devastating effects on the human population, killing an estimated 5 million people and now, for the first time, the impacts of the war on the wildlife in the region have come to light as a result of insecurity, heightened illegal bushmeat trade and increased deforestation. On top of these threats, it is miners searching for coltan (a metallic ore used in the manufacture of mobile phones and other electronics) and other minerals that have posed the biggest threat to the Grauer’s gorilla. Many of these mines are extremely remote and so miners often turn to hunting local wildlife for food.

Although protected by law, gorillas are highly prized as bushmeat due to their large size and because they are easily tracked and killed as they move in groups on the ground in their small home ranges. It is clear that the hunting of the Grauer’s gorilla needs to stop – before it’s too late.

Stuart Nixon tells us more:

 

Read more and download the report, entitled “Status of Grauer’s gorilla and chimpanzees in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo” here.

Learn more about the Chester Zoo conservation projects Stuart Nixon is also working on in Africa and discover how we are working to protect other primate species and wildlife found in this part of the world, HERE.