Ensuring the long-term survival of forest species like the western lowland gorilla through a combination of approaches including research into status and threats and exploring alternatives to bushmeat for communities.
Río Muni, Equatorial Guinea
The species ranges across central Africa in the forests of Gabon, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, the Republic of Congo and Angola. Until recently it was thought that there was a single gorilla species with three subspecies (western lowland, eastern lowland and mountain gorillas) but DNA analysis revealed significant differences between eastern and western populations. Today, the western gorilla has two recognized subspecies: Gorilla gorilla gorilla (western lowland gorillas) and Gorilla gorilla diehli (Cross River gorillas). The most populous and wide-ranging is the western lowland gorilla but it is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List due to a population decreased of over 60% in the past 25 years.
Even though they number around 100,000, they have suffered a rapid population decline because of increased hunting for the bushmeat trade, exacerbated by logging and other development activities (which increases forest access and poaching) and the Ebola virus which has caused a series of massive gorilla die-offs in remote forest blocks at the heart of their range since the early 1990s.
Rising urban demand for animal protein and a lack of alternative livelihoods to hunting for rural people are contributing to an increasingly unsustainable bushmeat trade in Equatorial Guinea, which is a major threat to gorillas and other forest wildlife. This project is working with local communities to evaluate culturally acceptable and economically viable bushmeat alternatives, such as improving the sourcing and marketing of frozen non-animal protein substitutes, or increasing local production of fresh fish and livestock, and increasing capacity to implement the most promising options.
1) Expand on initial research to evaluate, test and support the trial of potential management options
2) Continue working alongside national partners such as INDEFOR, UNGE (the national university) and ANDEGE, to build their capacity for data collection, analysis and reporting.
3) Carry on developing a partnership with the Equatoguinean government, working more broadly to support national development and conservation plans.
Bushmeat is usually the main source of income for local villagers
There are few alternative livelihood options for most, but this project aims to improve management of the bushmeat industry and make it sustainable so it does not negatively impact wildlife in the region