24/09/2020

World Gorilla Day – Saving Critically Endangered Species in the Wild

We're celebrating World Gorilla Day!

You may have seen our fantastic western lowland gorilla troupe at Bristol Zoo Gardens – including our 32-stone silverback Jock! But did you know that they link to our conservation of this species in Equatorial Guinea?

This World Gorilla Day (24 September), we are recognising the crucial conservation projects dedicated to saving the Critically Endangered western lowland gorilla.

Bristol Zoological Society carries out conservation projects in four continents across the world and right here at Bristol Zoo Gardens. We combine research, action and local collaboration within the field to overcome the challenges facing species and ecosystems.

Read on to find out more about the action we’re taking to save Critically Endangered gorillas.

What’s at stake?

The IUCN Red List categorises the western lowland gorilla as Critically Endangered.

Gorillas are hunted for their meat and their young are regularly taken and sold as pets, often only to end up abandoned or dying of starvation.

The dwindling population of wild western lowland gorillas is reflected across Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of the Congo and Gabon.

The exact number of animals left isn’t known because they inhabit some of the densest and remote rainforests in Africa; 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 infectious disease such as Ebola.

Equatorial Guinea conservation project

Bristol Zoological Society has focused on the conservation of apes in Central Africa since 2003.

One of our flagship conservation projects focuses on western lowland gorillas in Monte Alén National Park, Equatorial Guinea – an area highlighted by the IUCN as critically important for the conservation of this species.

Our key goals include:

  • Establishing a research base camp at Monte Alén National Park, Equatorial Guinea, in collaboration with Equatoguinean Institute for Forestry Development and Protected Area Management (INDEFOR-AP)
  • Establishing standardised great ape (and other large mammal) monitoring programmes, including training in monitoring methods for personnel
  • Reinforcing capacity and structures for effective law enforcement support for the recruitment, training and deployment of eco-guards in the national park
  • Working with local communities on alternative livelihood projects to move away from a reliance on hunting for income

For more than 20 years, Bristol Zoological Society has also supported a sanctuary in Cameroon, Ape Action Africa, which helps look after orphaned gorillas and chimpanzees.

Caught on camera

The team in Equatorial Guinea were recently lucky enough to capture images of young gorillas in the wild using camera traps.

Dr Gráinne McCabe, one of the conservationists leading the project, said it was particularly exciting to see young gorillas, as this shows a new generation has been born and appears to be thriving.

She said: “It is a huge milestone for the project as it confirms their continued existence here, despite heavy hunting pressure in this forest.”

The team have 21 cameras installed in the area, with an aim to have 33 cameras in total across the national park, to help establish how many gorillas live there and to investigate for signs of poaching.


How can you help?

Bristol Zoological Society is a conservation and education charity and relies on the generous support of the public not only to fund its important work at Bristol Zoo and Wild Place, but also its vital conservation and research projects across four continents.

Support Bristol Zoological Society by paying for a visit, becoming a member, or donating to our appeal to directly help our conservation projects at home and abroad. 

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