World's largest and rarest gorillas caught in the crossfire in the DRC13/03/2013 22:56:20 Setting the record straight about Grauer's gorilla, potentially the most threatened gorilla in the world
March 2013. The world's leading conservation organizations have joined together to fight for the survival of the Endangered Grauer's or eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri). Found only in the mountain and mid-altitude forests of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Grauer's gorilla is not only the largest of the four gorilla subspecies but also the largest primate in the world.
Population status unknown
The Jane Goodall Institute, Fauna & Flora International (FFI), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), Conservation International (CI), the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI), and local conservation organizations have partnered with the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN), the Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism (MECNT), national military and police authorities, and local communities to support the implementation of a recently completed International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Conservation Action Plan for great apes in the eastern DRC.
The action plan represents an important milestone in the conservation of great apes in the DRC, bringing together a large number of government and civilian stakeholders and a panel of ape conservation experts to identify essential actions to slow the decline of gorillas and chimpanzees in the region.
Dario Merlo of the Jane Goodall Institute said: "Conserving the remaining Grauer's gorilla populations, as well as chimpanzees in the area, requires a dynamic approach and the participation of all areas of society from national government to local communities."
Having identified and agreed on the need for a coordinated and consolidated approach, the in-country teams are now working closely, each taking the lead on a component of the plan while supporting the others with their expertise. One of the key activities identified is the need to assess the true status of gorillas and chimpanzees in the region.
The first-ever surveys of Grauer's gorillas were carried out in the late 1950s by George Schaller of WCS and John Emlen at a time when Grauer's gorillas were considered to be the same subspecies as the mountain gorilla. The initial surveys concluded that these gorillas were rare and rapidly declining due to habitat destruction, hunting for meat, and retaliation for crop raiding.
Threatened by hunting and encroachment
New survey technique
Lilian Pintea of the Jane Goodall Institute said: "With support from Google, DigitalGlobe and Esri, we are also applying innovative, cutting-edge mobile mapping, satellite imagery, and cloud-based technologies to equip survey teams with high-resolution base maps and enable local communities to contribute to ape monitoring efforts."
Stuart Nixon of Fauna & Flora International said: "Today, the remaining Grauer's gorilla populations are small and localised and occur in regions of intense illegal mining activity and insecurity. Until we can complete the much-needed surveys, our best guess is that between 2,000 and 10,000 gorillas remain in around 14 isolated populations. Without a dedicated effort, the next 10 years will be marked by continuing local extinctions of this forgotten gorilla."
Classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the new surveys are vital to accurately assess Grauer's gorilla conservation status and to identify the highest priority populations for focused conservation efforts and long-term monitoring.
WCS and FFI will begin implementing the surveys this month.