Future for Gorillas in Africa Getting Bleaker
Accelerating Impacts from Poaching to Illegal Timber Trade Hitting Great Ape Populations and Habitats Faster Than Previously Supposed
UNEP and INTERPOL Call for More Support for Border and Customs Controls
Doha, 24 March 2010 - Gorillas may have largely disappeared from large parts of the Greater Congo Basin by the mid 2020s unless urgent action is taken to safeguard habitats and counter poaching, says the United Nations and INTERPOL - the world's largest international police organization.
Previous projections by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), made in 2002, suggested that only 10 per cent of the original ranges would remain by 2030.
These estimates now appear too optimistic given the intensification of pressures including illegal logging, mining, charcoal production and increased demand for bushmeat, of which an increasing proportion is ape meat.
Outbreaks of Ebola hemorrhagic fever virus are adding to concerns. These have killed thousands of great apes including gorillas and by some estimates up to 90 per cent of animals infected will die.
The new report, launched at a meeting of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) taking place in Qatar, says the situation is especially critical in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where a great deal of the escalating damage is linked with militias operating in the region.
The Rapid Response Assessment report, entitled The Last Stand of the Gorilla - Environmental Crime and Conflict in the Congo Basin, says militias in the eastern part of the DRC are behind much of the illegal trade which may be worth several hundred million dollars a year.
It says that smuggled or illegally-harvested minerals such as diamonds, gold and coltan along with timber ends up crossing borders, passing through middle men and companies before being shipped onto countries in Asia, the European Union and the Gulf.