Fewer than 4,000 Grauer’s gorillas remain and the sub-species is being pushed to extinction by hungry miners
An endangered gorilla subspecies is being pushed towards extinction as mineral miners in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) hunt it for bushmeat. Concerns have now been raised that the global technology supply chain may be accelerating its demise.
The Grauer’s gorilla, the world’s largest primate, is only found in the eastern DRC, but decades of illegal hunting and mining, coupled with civil unrest and habitat loss, have pushed it to the brink.
Conservationists are now calling for ‘bushmeat free’ to be included alongside ‘conflict free’ as a way of ensuring minerals used in the global supply chain are sourced from mines that don’t kill endangered animals. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), its numbers have fallen 77 per cent in the last two decades, with fewer than 4,000 now remaining.
Its hunting for bushmeat has been driven by the proliferation of small mineral mines deep in the forest, according to Andrew Plumptre, director of the organisation’s Albertine Rift Program, which operates in the DRC, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia. The mines are usually controlled by armed rebels who work where government forces struggle to reach.
“These mines tend to be located away from where people are, which means they’ve moved deep into the areas where the remaining gorillas tend to be found,” said Plumptre. “And because they’re far from villages they can’t access food very easily and so they tend to hunt around the mines for bushmeat to survive.”
Miners who shoot at gorilla groups will almost always be attacked by the silverback as he tries to defend his group. If killed, the absence of a dominant male can cause the group to splinter, putting it at risk of attacks from other males and predators such as leopards.
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