Threats to Gorillas

BUSHMEAT TRADE — Although wild animal meat has long been part of the staple diet of indigenous forest dwellers, the rate at which these animals are being slaughtered has reached alarming new levels. This increase is most likely a direct consequence of deforestation. As things stand today the bushmeat trade is the single greatest threat to the survival of the gorilla.

VANISHING HABITAT — As mankind’s seemingly insatiable appetite for land (slotted for commercial use) continues unabated, in its wake lie the ruins of large tracts of forest and other habitats once home to many an endangered species. As mentioned earlier, the upward spiral in the bushmeat trade is a direct result of deforestation which in some measure is responsible for:
  • increased access to previously inaccessible forest areas
  • employees involved with deforestation killing the local wildlife to cater for their needs
  • opportunistic commercial hunters profit by killing previously inaccessible wildlife and sell the meat to the logging/timber company employees
  • those same hunters can more easily export bushmeat to urban areas (which effectively translates into a bigger market) because of the new roads and other infrastructures associated with deforestation activity
  • an upsurge in hostile encounters between people and gorillas (crop raiding/damage to farm crops)

COLLATERAL DAMAGE — The bushmeat trade is not restricted to apes alone. As far as the hunter is concerned any animal caught in his snare is fair game. Frequently gorillas run into snares intended for other animals, and even if they escape, may end up losing the ensnared limb and ultimately dying.

ANIMALS ILLEGALLY IN CAPTIVITY –Up until the 1980’s gorilla infants were often illegally captured and sold to recipient zoos. Usually the capture of the infant meant the deaths of several adult gorillas, because there was no way a troop of gorillas was going to allow the forced removal of one of its own without a fight. Happily though this situation rarely, if ever, happens today. Most gorillas currently residing in zoos were born there. In fact the majority of young animals captured illegally could be considered as collateral damage to the bush-meat trade…survivors to the slaughter of their parents.

SUMMARY

To summarize, the most immediate threats to the survival of the gorilla and other great apes are:

  • The Bushmeat Trade
  • Deforestation and habitat loss

Saving the gorillas can only be successfully achieved through the combination of grassroot and international efforts. International commerce is the driving force behind deforestation, which directly impacts the gorillas by destroying their habitat and by facilitating the bushmeat trade.

Furthermore, the loss of forest land also affects the indigenous people, and may drive persons who were otherwise not so inclined, into hunting and the bushmeat trade to make ends meet.