Tag Archives: Republic of Congo

Republic of Congo: Up To Two Gorillas Killed for Bushmeat Trade Each Week

In the Kouilou region of the Republic of Congo, up to two gorillas are being killed each week, an undercover investigation by the conservation group Endangered Species International has revealed, exposing the scale of gorilla poaching in the country. This story was given world audience by the BBC Earth News portal. It is reproduced here below.

Scale of gorilla poaching exposed

By Jody Bourton
Earth News reporter

An undercover investigation has found that up to two gorillas are killed and sold as bushmeat each week in Kouilou, a region of the Republic of Congo.

The apes’ body parts are then taken downriver and passed on to traders who sell them in big-city markets.

Conducted by the conservation group Endangered Species International, the investigation helps expose the extent of gorilla poaching in the country.

It fears hundreds more gorillas may be taken each year outside the region.

The group began its investigation by going undercover, talking to sellers and traders at food markets in Pointe Noire, the second largest city in the Republic of Congo.

Over the course of a year, investigators visited the markets twice a month, recording the amount of bushmeat for sale.

“Gorilla meat is sold pre-cut and smoked for about $6 per ‘hand-sized’ piece. Actual gorilla hands are also available,” says Mr Pierre Fidenci, president of Endangered Species International (ESI).

“Over time we got the confidence of the sellers and traders. They gave us the origin of the gorilla meat and it all comes from a single region.”

The team then undertook an expedition to travel to the source of this meat, a forested area called Kouilou, which lies along the Kouilou River around 100 to 130km from Pointe Noire.

Using the same boats that ferry the gorilla meat downriver to the city, the investigators travelled upstream, taking photographs and recording interviews with villagers which revealed the extent of the gorilla poaching.

The investigators also undertook field surveys to ascertain the size of the population of wild western lowland gorillas living in the region.

“According to interviews and field surveys, we think we may have about 200 gorillas left in the area,” says Mr Fidenci.

“But we estimate that 4% of the population is being killed each month, or 50% in a year. It is a lot.”

The poachers particularly target adult gorillas of reproductive age which carry the most meat.

With such heavy hunting, the researchers believe gorillas could disappear from the region within a decade.

“During our mission we observed killing of gorillas in the wild. In less than one week and a half in one particular area we had two adult gorillas killed for their meat,” Mr Fidenci says.

All the meat appears to be consumed in Pointe Noire rather than being exported.

“The gorilla meat goes to the nearest, biggest and most profitable place,” says Mr Fidenci.

“Our study has disclosed the horrific scale of the endangered species market in the Republic of Congo, especially endangered gorillas sold as meat.”

Overall, ESI estimates that at least 300 gorillas are sold to markets each year in the country.

Crosshead

Western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) are one of two subspecies of Western gorilla, the other being the Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli).

Western lowland gorillas are considered to be critically endangered, as their population has fallen by more than 80% in three generations.

Between 100,000 and 125,000 western lowland gorillas are thought to survive across their entire geographic range which spans several countries.

But the dense and remote forest habitat in which they live often makes it difficult to reliably estimate the population size.

Mr Fidenci hopes to go back to Kouilou to find out more about the remaining gorillas living there and to find a way to conserve them.

“We intend to stop the killing in the area by providing alternative income to locals and working with hunters not against them. We hope to conduct conservation awareness with educational programs with other NGOs and to create a gorilla nature reserve.”

“We need to tackle the problem where it starts, right there where people and gorillas live.”

Currently, little is done in the country to prevent the poaching of bushmeat, Mr Fidenci says.

“Enforcement does not exist. Even though there are existing laws which protect endangered wildlife against such activities.”

New park to save the most endangered gorilla species

It’s not all bad news for gorillas despite the crisis in the DR Congo, there is good news in Nigeria and Cameroon for the worlds most endangered gorilla species.  The Cross River gorilla, the rarest of the four gorilla subspecies has a new protected area to protect it. The species is found only in Nigeria and Cameroon is threatened by habitat destruction and fragmentation due to farming, roads and burning, as well as hunting for bushmeat.

Cross river gorilla

The new park called Takamanda National Park is a transboundary park that protects the 115 cross river gorillas (a third of the worlds population) and other endangered animals like chimapnzees, drills and forest elephants to wonder freely in both countries.  It’s creation represents many years of work led by WCS and the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife in Cameroon and local communities.

This project is funded by the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife and the German Development Bank (Kreditanstalt f?r Wiederaufbau Bankengruppe) as part of a 5-year funding program to protect key conservation areas in collaboration with local communities in southwest Cameroon. The initiative is also supported by the World Wildlife Fund, the German Development Service (DED) and the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ).

The cross river gorilla is one of four species of gorillas, the other subspecies include: western lowland gorillas, eastern lowland or “Grauer’s” gorillas, restricted to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and mountain gorillas, made famous by Dian Fossey and George Schaller. Earlier this year, WCS scientists discovered more than 125,000 western lowland gorillas in the northern Republic of Congo. All gorilla species  are classified as “critically endangered” or “endangered” by the IUCN Red List.

Read more about this in blogs here and here and here