"We are committed to combating all forms of environmental crime on a global scale. INTERPOL is mandated to do so by providing law enforcement agencies in all our 188 member countries with the intelligence exchange, operational support, and capacity building needed to combat this world-spanning crime."
The report, issued during the UN's International Year of Biodiversity, is based on scientific data, new surveys including satellite ones, interviews, investigations and an analysis of evidence supplied to the UN Security Council.
It has been compiled by UNEP and partly updates its assessment of 2002 entitled 'The Great Apes - The Road Ahead'.
The 2002 report said at the time that around 28 per cent, or some 204,900 square kilometres of remaining gorilla habitat in Africa, could be classed as "relatively undisturbed".
"If infrastructure growth continues at current levels, the area left by 2030 is estimated to be 69,900 square kilometres or just 10 per cent. It amounts to a 2.1 per cent, or 4,500 square kilometre, annual loss of low-impacted gorilla habitat across range states including Nigeria, Gabon, Cameroon and Congo," the report said at the time.
Christian Nellemann, a senior officer at UNEP's Grid Arendal centre who was lead author of the 2002 report and who has headed up the new one, said the original assessment had underestimated the scale of the bushmeat trade, the rise in logging and the impact of the Ebola virus on great ape populations.
"With the current and accelerated rate of poaching for bushmeat and habitat loss, the gorillas of the Greater Congo Basin may now disappear from most of their present range within ten to fifteen years," said Mr Nellemann.
"We are observing a decline in wildlife across many parts of the region, and also side-effects on poaching outside the region and on poaching for ivory and rhino horn, often involving poachers and smugglers operating from the Congo Basin, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda, to buyers in Asia and beyond," he added.
Ian Redmond, Envoy for the Great Ape Survival Partnership, established by UNEP and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said clamping down on ape meat in the bushmeat trade would not harm local people.
"Ape meat is only a tiny proportion of the million tonnes of bushmeat consumed each year in the Congo Basin, so removing it from the diet of consumers would not greatly affect their protein intake - but it would assist in halting the current decline in gorilla populations being subjected to hunting and who, given their complex social structures, are so sensitive to the killing of individuals," he added.
The report does, however, contain some positive news. A new and as yet unpublished survey in one area of the eastern DRC, in the centre of the conflict zone, has discovered 750 critically endangered Eastern lowland gorillas.
The other good news is that the mountain gorillas in the Virungas, an area which is shared by Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo, have survived during several periods of instability. And this is the result of transboundary collaboration among the three countries, including better law enforcement and benefit sharing with the local communities.
This is also due to the efforts of courageous park rangers who last year, for example, destroyed over 1,000 kilns involved in charcoal production in the Virunga National Park. But this has come at a price - over 190 Virunga park rangers have been killed in recent years in the line of duty, with the perpetrators thought to be militias concerned about a loss of revenue.
Both UNEP and INTERPOL say that significant resources and training for law enforcement personnel and rangers on the ground must be mobilized, including long-term capacity building.
This includes funds for supporting and investigating transnational environmental crime in the region, including the companies concerned in Africa and beyond, all the way to the consumers.
The College of African Wildlife Management at Mweka, near Kilimanjaro (Tanzania) has worked with UNEP in developing new programmes for anti-poaching as part of the development of the report. The college trains rangers across the entire eastern Africa.
A UNEP report published in 2007 and entitled The Last Stand of the Orangutan underlined similar threats to great apes in Asia. Since then, the Indonesian government has successfully stepped up law enforcement in many of its parks - and these improvements could be mirrored in the Congo Basin.
The report 'The Last Stand of the Gorilla - Environmental Crime and Conflict in the Congo Basin' was financed by the Government of France and the Great Ape Survival Partnership (GRASP) established by UNEP and UNESCO.
For more information, please contact:
Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson/Head of Media, on Tel +254 20 7623084, Mobile +254 733 632755
Anne-France White, Associate Information Officer, on Tel: +254 20 762 3088, Mobile: +254 (0)728 600 494, or
INTERPOL Communications and Publications Office,