The world’s largest great ape is Grauer’s gorilla, and they are very, very endangered. There are just 3,800 left. In 1995, there were 17,000.
As reported by the Wildlife Conservation Society and Fauna and Flora International, this means the Grauer’s gorilla is now climbing the IUCN’s red list of threatened species. This close relative of the mountain gorilla is only found in the DR Congo.
It’s devastating news for these incredible animals, and for the forest that they call home. But there is hope for the future.
In Cool Earth’s Lubutu partnership in DR Congo, we have recently completed a biodiversity monitoring project. Not only is the Grauer’s gorilla present in the partnership area, but seven families have been discovered. Four rangers and eight locally trained guides looked at prints, tracks, dung, scratch marks and nests.
The field work took 16 days and involved teams of local guides surveying over 250km of forest paths. The terrain was mountainous, and heavy rain made the going tough. But it was worth it. The team were dazzled by the abundance of okapi and chimpanzees. And in the area west of the river, a gorilla family of three was followed and located near the village of Okoku.
The team also looked at the distribution of the three plants most commonly eaten by Grauer’s gorillas to see whether the area might be suitable for reintroducing orphaned gorillas from a nearby sanctuary.
As part of the project, meetings were also held with local people who will play a major role in the protection of gorillas and other wildlife in the area.
The families of gorillas in our partnership area range in size from about five to seven individuals and they seem to be thriving. It’s good news for the gorillas, but also good news for the forest, as research has shown that forest areas containing large animals store more carbon than others. And it isn’t just gorillas. The biodiversity monitoring teams also found lots of chimpanzees, and evidence of leopards and pangolins.
Thanks to you their homes are protected. We hope it’s the beginning of more good news for these magnificent apes.