Gains in the Virunga national park of the DRC are encouraging but threats continue

For the last 3 years there has been a significant baby boom in the forests of the Virungas. This is highly encouraging for the long term survival of the mountain gorillas that live here.

Unfortunately many threats remain. Parts of the park are potentially about to be reclassified for mining, and there are invading armed groups in various parts of the forest.

Currently, the DRC section of the park contains roughly 350 gorillas, though this number includes all mountain and lowland gorillas. However, the armed groups often make money by hunting wildlife both for bushmeat and the pet trade.

In recent years, Mountain gorillas have been moved from critically endangered, to the endangered list. However, this generally is in relation to the reduction of the population over the last few years. If the population reaches a small size, then reductions of any level are likely to wipe them out. This has not happened, thankfully, but given a population of only 350 animals, it is foolish to think that this wildlife population is out of danger, quite the contrary, it would take very little for this population to disappear – STILL and so we must not relax.

Current threats thought to exist for the park long term, do not worry about poaching, so much as land lost to oil and mineral extraction. Remember that an area can be deforested in a matter of a few weeks, it can take a century for the forest to return.

Will climate change kill the forests of Africa?

There are many threats facing the great apes of Africa, from habitat destruction and fragmentation, to hunting for bush meat. Unfortunately, it is now thought that Chimpanzees gorillas and Bonobos face a still greater threat (assuming humans avoid killing off what remains of their population) the loss of about 94% of their remaining habitat due to forest die off from the warming that we are creating.

Could this become something impossible to see, within this generation? I hope not

Even under our most rosy scenario, they stand to loose 85% of their range.

The same studies suggest that as areas become unsuitable, there are likely to be other that become suitable. Unfortunately, dealing with slow adapting animals this will not help at all without significant assistance from humans.

What is even more scary is that this loss would occur by 2050.

I find this horrifying. I have not been able to yet visit any wild great ape populations, and now it looks as though their future is severely limited. It also looks like, by the time my children have children the huge forests of Africa teeming with wildlife, will be no more.

We must act now!

Human communities which live alongside great ape populations must benefit. Of course these communities must not grow and crowd out the wildlife, but if a similar system can be set up that worked for the mountain gorillas, perhaps many of the great apes could be saved and at the same time, pull millions of Africans living in poverty, into more sustainable and profitable lives.

This is not something that must be left to African governments. Indeed, it also must not be just left to tourism. Governments around the world, need to help in this work.

As well as replanting and recovering rainforests across the globe, the human population as a whole needs to work together to save the remaining tropical rainforests which are so precious to our future and that of our descendants.

A French company Biotope is working on sustainable cohabitation between chimpanzees and local communities in the highlands of western central Guinea.

The west African Chimpanzee once numbered around 2 million. Currently there are roughly 500,000, but without urgent action that number is liable to move quickly down to close to zero.

Conservation for its own sake is all very well for those people living on the other side of the world. For those who live close by it is a different matter. Ending the population explosion that is occurring in Africa, is essential both for the human and wildlife populations that share this continent. Similar programs could do the same thing in south America and Asia.

I am well aware that even if successful, this website will only be part of the solution, but I hope that with your support we can do some good.

As the number of mountain gorillas passes above 1000 for the first time in a very long time we have to worry about their future survival

Recent census of the Mountain gorillas between the two remaining areas of habitat counted 1063, a number that has risen from perhaps only 350 in the 1980s. The idea of a critically endangered growing by 300% in population size in only 40 years is incredible. 

Male Mountain gorilla
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Three endangered mountain gorillas killed by lightning strike

Mountain gorillas live in a small patch of montane, rainforest in Central Africa. Being a mountainous region there are naturally dangers and unfortunately 3 mountain gorillas, succumbed to one of these dangers recently. They were killed by a lightning strike.

The mountain gorilla population does currently stand at around 1000 members having grown by almost 50% since 2008. This is very impressive for a slow breeding population like gorillas, but this is a still a relatively small population and a local epidemic could make the situation very poor.

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Animals moving away from extinction

The mountain gorilla and the fin whale have been reassessed and their conservation status had been found to not accurately show their position.

In the case of mountain gorillas, this is understandable. In 2008 the mountain gorilla population numbered approximately 680, the most recent number was around 1000. That is an increase of roughly 50% in just a decade. As such they have been moved from critically endangered to endangered. Mountain gorillas are only found in two reserves and so the population will always be delicate, but clearly for the time being, with less instability in the region they are doing well. Given the wars and issues of this region, though, this position could change very fast.

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