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Civil War In Congo Pushes Gorillas To Extinction

Apr 13, 2016 05:41 AM EDT

Human beings are not only the casualties of war in the long drawn-out civil war in Congo. The unrest has also adversely impacted the population of the world's largest ape, the Grauer's gorilla, pushing them to the brink of distinction.

The last 20 years has seen a collapse in their number, with a staggering 77 percent decline, according to a recent comprehensive report released by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Flora and Fauna International and the Congolese Insitute for the Conservation of Nature.

More than 13,000 Grauer's gorillas have been lost due to the civil unrest in the Central African country, leaving fewer than 4,000 remaining in the wild.

Congolese forests have been occupied and controlled by the militia and rebel groups since the civil war broke out in 1996. These armed men have been in conflict for territory and minerals, setting up mining sites in the jungle to fund their operations.

The 400-pound Grauer's gorilla has been an easy target for bushmeat for the miners' sustenance.

Conducting the study has been a dangerous task, involving several Congolese scientists and field assistants. To document the gorilla's disappearance, they braved through 12,000 square kilometers of militia-controlled forests in the span of four years.

Lives of several park rangers were put in constant danger for the effort, including a recent killing just this March 31, as per Gizmodo.

With this report, the study's authors recommended that the status of Grauer's gorilla be changed from "threatened" to "critically endangered" in the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.

Terrifyingly, "critically endangered" is only a step below "extinct in the wild."

Actions must be immediately done now to save the Grauer's gorilla from complete disappearance. The report recommends that the artisanal mining sites must be regulated, miners disarmed and weapons banned. They also pushed for better legislation for the protection of the species, as well as heightened awareness within the community and international oversight to prevent the entry of conflict minerals in the global market.

Co-author Stuart Nixon said that we must act fast to save the Grauer's gorilla from extinction.

"Unless greater investment and effort is made, we face the very real threat that this incredible primate will disappear from many parts of its range in the next five years," he said in a statement.

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