Many creatures are suffering dwindling numbers at the hands of mankind, but the fate of the Grauer’s gorilla has been nearly sealed in just the last two decades. Civil unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo has caused a 77 percent decline in the primates’ population, and conservationists are crying for help on their behalf.
The Grauer’s gorilla once flourished in the eastern part of the war-torn country, with numbers over 17,000. An intensive – and dangerous – campaign to report on the state of the endangered beasts, led by the Wildlife Conservation Society and Fauna & Flora International, found only 4,000 of them remaining today.
The early 1990s were dark times for Central Africa. Refugees fleeing the Rwandan genocide found themselves in the DRC and the conflict to follow has led to illegal hunting, logging, and mining of precious materials. The militia groups who retreated into the forests made mining their trade and bushmeat their meals. Because 400 pound gorillas make easier prey than smaller primates who can escape through the trees, the Grauer’s gorillas’ numbers have plummeted.
WCS’ report, the result of a four year endeavor covering 12,000 square miles, highlighted the extent of the damage to gorilla populations. The team endured kidnappings, being chased, and even gunfire. Co-author of the study, Stuart Nixon, said, “Unless greater investment and effort is made, we face the very real threat that this incredible primate will disappear from many parts of its range in the next five years.” The team suggests more serious oversight in the global technology supply chain when it comes to sourcing conflict-free (and bushmeat-free) materials for electronic devices, as well as widespread awareness and dedication to the gorillas’ preservation.