24/04/2020

Stories from the field to be delivered by Bristol Zoological Society conservationists

​Protecting wild western lowland gorillas in Equatorial Guinea will be the subject of a free online talk delivered by Bristol Zoological Society next week.

Conservationists from the Society have been working in this region to protect an elusive population of wild gorillas in the dense jungle of central Rio Muni for almost two years.

Using camera traps, the team recently caught amazing images of a gorilla troop for the first time in more than a decade.

Now the story of this vital conservation project will be brought to life by our Head of Field Conservation and Science, Dr Grainne McCabe, who previously lived in Equatorial Guinea.

It will be the first in a new series of lectures that the Society is offering over the coming weeks, to bring its fascinating and vital conservation projects to life for people to enjoy from home.

Click here to find out more about our upcoming lectures.

The first lecture, called ‘The gentle giants of Equatorial Guinea: conserving Monte Alén’s western lowland gorillas’ will include first-hand experiences from Dr McCabe.

During the hour-long lecture on Wednesday (April 29) from 6pm, she will describe the realities of carrying out conservation work in some of the world’s most biodiverse places.

Dr McCabe said: “I’m delighted to host this first talk and hope that people will welcome the opportunity to find out more about the work we are doing to protect Critically Endangered western lowland gorillas and their forest habitat.

“I’m looking forward to sharing fascinating insights into gorilla behaviour and sociality, as well as the threats they face in the wild, and explain what we are doing to help to protect these gentle forest giants.”

Dr McCabe will also discuss the highs and lows of field work in a challenging place like Central Africa, and share some stories of the adventures our team have had there.

The gorilla population in Monte Alén National Park in Equatorial Guinea is very important as this species is listed as Critically Endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List, meaning it is at very high risk of extinction in the near future.

In 2005, it was estimated that around 2,000 western lowland gorillas lived in this area. Current numbers are unknown but the Society’s conservation team has started a systematic monitoring programme to help establish numbers.

Dr McCabe said: “Levels of poaching in the park are very high and so we have always been very concerned that gorillas are at risk of being hunted into extinction in this area.”

The dwindling population of wild western lowland gorillas is reflected across five other African countries, including Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo and Gabon.

The exact number of western lowland gorillas remaining in Africa is not known because they inhabit some of the densest and remote rainforests, however, recent estimates have shown that as few as 360,000 remain across their range.

In addition, scientists predict gorilla numbers have declined by more than 60 per cent over the last 20 to 25 years, largely due to bushmeat hunting and infectious disease outbreaks.

Our gorilla conservation project is run in partnership with the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol).

We have been focused on the conservation of apes in Central Africa since 2003. We also participate in a conservation breeding programme for western lowland gorillas.

We recently launched an appeal to ensure the future of our work saving wildlife. Its aim is to safeguard Bristol Zoo Gardens, Wild Place Project and our conservation projects in 10 countries across the world. This is following the temporary closure of both our sites in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Find out more, or make a donation here.

Find out more about the gorilla conservation lecture, click here.

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