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World Gorilla Day

World Gorilla Day marks its 7th anniversary today, pushing for greater awareness and investment in gorilla conservation.

Since its inauguration in 2017, World Gorilla Day has served as a focal point for people worldwide to celebrate these magnificent creatures and commit to their protection.

While it is clear that collective action and awareness-raising have been making a difference, much more work remains to be done.

The legacy of Dian Fossey

The celebration of World Gorilla Day coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Karisoke Research Center, founded by the late primatologist Dian Fossey.

s the longest-running gorilla field study site, Karisoke continues to focus on the research, conservation, and protection of gorillas in Africa. However, despite the dedication of numerous organizations and individuals, there is a need for increased investment and public awareness to bolster the survival chances for gorillas.

Critical state of mountain gorillas

The mountain gorilla, living in high-altitude mountain and bamboo forests, remains critically endangered. With just around 880 of them left in the wild, their habitat is constantly threatened by human activities.

For example, mining for coltan, a mineral used in small electronic devices, has led to significant habitat destruction in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, displacing or even killing gorillas.

Why rangers are key to successful gorilla conservation

Thin Green Line Foundation UK Trustee and great ape expert Ian Redmond knows a thing or two about gorillas and we asked him, ahead of World Gorilla Day 2023, some pertinent questions about this critically endangered species (both Eastern Gorillas and Western Gorillas are listed as critically endangered according to the IUCN Red List) and what we can do collectively to help them and support the rangers who protect them.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Another increasing threat is the emergence and spread of diseases such as ebola among gorilla populations.

Why are rangers so important in the conservation of gorillas?

Rangers are the front-line workers in efforts to stem all the above threats to gorilla. One day rangers might be confronting armed poachers and illegal loggers, another day helping desperate communities facing hunger because the rains have failed, and sometimes caring for orphan gorilla infants rescued from traffickers. Rangers have to be multi-skilled, adaptable, tough and sensitive!

How can we best support rangers working to conserve gorillas?

Rangers deserve our admiration – they are heroes of conservation doing difficult and dangerous work for the benefit of the whole world. Let’s recognise that at every opportunity.

What are the main threats to gorillas and their habitats?

For three of the four subspecies – loss and degradation of habitat due to agricultural expansion, extractive industries (logging and mining) and building infrastructure such as roads, railways and pipelines – all of which are complicated by civil war and unrest in some of the 10 African countries where gorillas naturally occur.

As well as the unintentional impact of those activities, they all make previously inaccessible areas of gorilla habitat accessible to poachers: illegal hunting – for bushmeat, talismans and live infants for the illegal wildlife trade – is the other major threat.

The ivory trade also impacts gorillas because when forest elephants are extirpated, the quality of the habitat declines for gorillas. On top of those are the global threats of climate change and biodiversity loss leading to ecosystem collapse. This is a new threat facing even the mountain gorillas, which are the only non-human great ape to be increasing in number (but only 1,000 individuals, up from about 400 in the 1970s) thanks to the dedicated rangers or Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

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