Bristol Zoological Society is launching an urgent appeal to help build a safe haven in Africa for orphaned gorillas. They are the innocent victims of the brutal bush meat trade which sees thousands of adult western lowland gorillas slaughtered each year. A total of 22 of these orphaned gorillas are being cared for by a sanctuary in Mefou National Park in Cameroon with which Bristol Zoological Society has worked for the past 20 years. But they have now grown-up and need three bigger enclosures in which to live and remain safe. Western lowland gorillas are listed as Critically Endangered and without the efforts of sanctuaries like the one in Mefou National Park they could be lost forever.
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The western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) is listed as Critically Endangered by IUCN Red List. Found in six countries across Central Africa, it is threatened with habitat loss and bushmeat hunting across much of its range.
In 2014, the IUCN Species Survival Commission Primate Specialist Group Great Ape Section released the Regional Action Plan for the Conservation of Western Lowland Gorillas and Central Chimpanzees 2015-2025. In this plan, these experts highlight priority landscapes and actions to ensure the conservation of this species. One of the sites of Exceptional Importance (i.e., holds more than 5% of the global population of gorillas) for gorilla conservation is the Monte Alén-Monts de Cristal-Abanga Landscape, a transboundary region between Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. The heart of this landscape is Monte Alén National Park, in Rio Muni, mainland Equatorial Guinea. This region is also highlighted for its high ‘irreplaceability value’, meaning that it is an area that must be preserved in order for effective conservation of the target species to occur, and where the same level of conservation impact cannot easily be achieved by conserving another region. This, coupled with the estimate of over 2000 gorillas remaining as of 2013, and reports of 15 other primate species occurring in the park, with limited active protection and currently no research presence, is why we have chosen to focus our conservation efforts in Parque Nacional de Monte Alén.
Bristol Zoological Society have been focused on the conservation of apes in Central Africa since 2003. Our intial project centered on the creation of a community hunting zone in the buffer region around the Dja Biosphere Reserve in southern Cameroon; an important gorilla habitat. However, many international conservation players are currently active in the Dja region and little attention has been given to other regions designated of higher priority for gorilla conservation according to the IUCN Action Plan. In addition to our work in Dja, we have also provided long-term support to the primate sanctuary, Ape Action Africa, based at Mefou National Park, Yaoundé, Cameroon, since 1998. In the UK, we are also participating in the Western Lowland Gorilla EEP with our breeding group at Bristol Zoo Gardens, which included two new births since 2016.
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