A recent study led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has good news for gorillas. The study found that the number of Grauer’s gorillas, the world’s largest gorilla subspecies, has increased from 6,800 compared to a 2016 estimate of 3,800.
The 3,000 animal increase is a promising sign for conservationists working to protect the species, only found in the Democratic Republic of Congo, from habitat loss and poaching. The study authors note that the surprising population increase is encouraging, but threats still persist for these critically endangered animals.
The gorillas live in Kahuzi-Biéga National Park and contiguous Oku community forests, but they are frequently killed for bushmeat. The region also experiences land clearing for mining which decimates their habitat. Conservationists are concerned that habitat loss will accelerate as the global demand for minerals used in electronic devices increases.
WCS works with local communities to create a balance between human and gorilla needs. Establishing forest areas for use versus conservation can help prevent mass deforestation by large companies.
“These community concessions provide safeguards for forests and protect them from landgrabs for developments and mining and other activities,” said WCS Central Africa director Emma Stokes. “It would be lovely to just have land left alone entirely as forests, but that is impossible because these communities live there and need to use that land.”
Source study: American Journal of Primatology – Changes in Grauer’s gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) and other primate populations in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park and Oku Community Reserve, the heart of Grauer’s gorilla global range