About two western lowland gorillas are killed and sold in local markets as bushmeat each week in the region of Kouilou in Congo, according to an undercover investigation. It may not sound like much, but it represents about 4 percent of the local population each month, and half of the population each year. And there are likely only about 200 gorillas left in the area, the BBC reports.
began its investigation by going undercover, talking to sellers and traders at food markets in Pointe Noire, the second largest city in .
Over the course of a year, investigators visited the markets twice a month, recording the amount of bushmeat for sale.
"Gorilla meat is sold pre-cut and smoked for about $6 per 'hand-sized' piece. Actual gorilla hands are also available," says Mr Pierre Fidenci, president of .
"Over time we got the confidence of the sellers and traders. They gave us the origin of the gorilla meat and it all comes from a single region."
ESI estimates that about 300 gorillas end up as bushmeat in Congo each year.
The Western lowland gorilla is the species of gorilla we're probably all most familiar with, as they are the ones that are usually found in zoos. (Actually, they're a subspecies of Gorilla gorilla, the other being the even rarer Cross River gorilla.) And though the 2007 discovery of a previously undiscovered population of the animals in northern Congo was promising, the species is still endangered, threatened by habitat destruction through logging and by outbreaks of the Ebola virus, in addition to commercial hunting.
Mr Fidenci hopes to go back to Kouilou to find out more about the remaining gorillas living there and to find a way to conserve them.
"We intend to stop the killing in the area by providing alternative income to locals and working with hunters not against them. We hope to conduct conservation awareness with educational programs with other NGOs and to create a gorilla nature reserve."...
Currently, little is done in the country to prevent the poaching of bushmeat, Mr Fidenci says.
"Enforcement does not exist. Even though there are existing laws which protect endangered wildlife against such activities."
Saving Kouilou's gorillas may be a small goal for conservationists, but this species could use all the help it can get.