March 25, 2010

Researchers Predict Bleak Future For African Gorillas

African gorillas and great apes are facing a number of issues that threaten their existence, and could reduce their numbers substantially by 2030, according to a March 24 report.

The study, entitled "The Last Stand of the Gorilla - Environmental Crime and Conflict" and presented at the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in Qatar, has concluded that illegal logging, mining, poaching, and illness are forcing gorillas closer to extinction while also threatening their habitats.

The findings were compiled by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and the Interpol Environmental Crime Program.

"This is a tragedy for the great ape and one also for countless other species being impacted by this intensifying and all too often illegal trade," Achim Steiner, UNEP's executive director, said in a Thursday media statement. "It is environmental crime and theft by the few and powerful at the expense of the poor and the vulnerable."

Gorillas and apes could lose as much as 90-percent of their habitat within a two decade span for a variety of reasons, the report claims. Ape meat is highly in demand, especially in African refugee camps, and has led to a sharp rise in poaching.

Environmental damage has been caused by militia members seeking gold, diamonds, and other materials that can be sold to fund their combat efforts. Also, the Ebola virus has hit the great apes hard, with the species experiencing a 90-percent mortality rate.

"The gorillas are yet another victim of the contempt shown by organized criminal gangs for national and international laws aimed at defending wildlife," David Higgins, Manager of the Interpol Environmental Crime Program, also said in the press release. "We are committed to combating all forms of environmental crime on a global scale."


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