September 16, 2009

Group: Congo gorillas killed for bush meat

As many as 100 gorillas a year may be killed by poachers and sold for bush meat in a single region in the Republic of Congo, an environmental group says.

Endangered Species International said it conducted an undercover investigation in Kouilou, 60 to 80 miles up the Kouilou River from Pointe-Noire, the country's second-largest city and a major port.

If poaching continues at its current rate, gorillas could disappear from the region within a decade, the group's president, Pierre Fidenci, told the BBC.

Fidenci said the group's investigation began in the markets of Pointe-Noire, where observers spent a year examining what was on sale and talking to traders.

Gorilla meat is sold pre-cut and smoked for about $6 per 'hand-sized' piece, he said. Actual gorilla hands are also available.

Fidenci said investigators also tried to determine how many western lowland gorillas remain in Kouilou. He said they estimate only 200 remain.

The group hopes to halt poaching by working with Kouilou residents to find alternatives.

We need to tackle the problem where it starts, right there where people and gorillas live, Fidenci said.