One of the world’s few remaining great ape species, the western lowland gorilla is critically endangered and has high risk of extinction in the wild forever. Due to illegal poaching for bush meat and the pet trade, and the destruction that extractive industries have brought to their habitat, gorilla populations are at risk.
FOUR PAWS supports the Fernan-Vaz Gorilla Project in the rehabilitation of the western lowland gorillas.
The Fernan-Vaz Gorilla Project (FVGP) is a Gorilla Conservation NGO founded in 2001, located in the Fernan-Vaz lagoon, Gabon. The project started with the transfer of four Western lowland gorillas from the Centre International de Recherches Médicales de Franceville (CIRMF) onto Evengue-Ezango Island in the Fernan-Vaz lagoon. These gorillas spent almost 20 years living in research facilities and the initial goal of the FVPG was to provide them a shelter in a natural refuge and special care to ensure their well-being.
The project went on to set up a Rehabilitation Centre for gorillas, with the goal to develop an efficient and sustainable gorilla rescue and rehabilitation programme of legally confiscated orphaned gorillas (victims of the bush meat trade), and to also secure a future for the rich biodiversity and the wild great-ape populations in non-protected community forests of the Fernan-Vaz region.
Poached and Traded
Hunting for bushmeat is the main cause of western lowland gorilla population decline. Continuous human expansion has brought greater forest access for poachers, who make use of the vast network of roads built for logging concessions. This allows hunters to enter the forest, and traffickers to transport large amounts of bushmeat out of the forest. The majority of western lowland gorillas (78%) also live outside the protected area network of forest, meaning their home can be invaded and destroyed; they can be kidnapped and sold as pets; or killed and eaten—all without any legal protection.
Extractive industries have led to the destruction of vast areas of gorilla habitat. Industrial-scale mining and logging consume large areas of forest, with many gorillas being killed in the process. Those who remain find themselves in a strange, mechanical environment which they have to escape or face starvation. The continued creation of new roads for logging and mining also fragments the gorilla’s habitat, limiting their home range, and foraging and mating opportunities. Monoculture plantations are also a concern; it is estimated that 73.8% of the Western lowland gorilla’s habitat is suitable for palm oil production. With oil-palm plantations approaching capacity in Asia, there will likely be an increase in African palm oil production in the coming years as these developing countries seize their opportunity for economic advancement.
Between 1995 and 2000, three-quarters of the gorilla population in 6 protected areas of forest died off. This is taught to be the work of the Ebola virus, which has been decimating both gorilla and chimpanzee populations since the early 1990's. Today, it remains a substantial threat in the region. As the transmission of the virus between individuals is so rapid and the area an outbreak affects so vast, large proportions of the gorilla population can be lost in a very short space of time.