It is important that people who grew up thinking it normal to eat gorilla, chimpanzee or bonobo body-parts, are not de- monised by those who baulk at the thought. But equally, peo- ple who do eat apes must realise that they will stop doing so soon. At current inferred rates of decline – there will simply be none left within our lifetime. Surely it is better to stop now, by choice, than later by extinction?
Ape Alliance, 2006.
Because the trade in gorilla meat is illegal, however, accurate figures on the number of gorillas killed each year are difficult to compile. When Bushmeat markets with a catchment that in- cludes ape habitat are studied, the proportion of ape carcasses is normally small – 0.5 to 2 per cent of the trade (Stein et al., 2002), the rest being mostly forest ungulates, large-bodied rodents, monkeys and large reptiles – but the impact on the apes is disproportionately large. Gorillas have a low reproduc- tive rate (almost 9 month gestation, usually one infant, about 4 years between births and maturity at about 10 years in females, up to 15 in males), so even low mortality rates can send a popu- lation into decline. Moreover, the social disruption following the death of a dominant silverback may result in infanticide of dependent infants when females join a new group.
Peter and the gorilla
Peter Kabi is a former hunter and self-confessed killer of a Cross River Gorilla:
It was 8:30 in the morning two years ago and I was passing our family banana plot on my way to hunt in the forest. I saw a silver- back eating our banana plants and fired. The gorilla screamed and ran; I was trembling for half an hour, but when I caught up with the gorilla it was dead. My family was very pleased. Not only was the gorilla no longer eating our crops, we had meat for ourselves and to sell to passing motorists down on the main road to Calabar.
Now I have agreed not to hunt any more, and the Wildlife Conser- vation Society is helping me build this snail farm as an alternative way of making a living.
Adapted from http://gorilla.wildlifedirect.org/2009/09/22/ian-redmond- peter-and-the-gorilla/
Kano and Asato (1994) studied ape-hunting in the Motaba River region of north-eastern Congo and concluded that 62 – about 5 per cent of the local gorilla population – were being killed each year – an unsustainable rate. Regional estimates of annual gorilla kills range from 400 – 600 in northern Congo (Redmond, 1989,) and 800 in Cameroon (Pearce & Ammann, 1995) and one estimate for the Congo Basin as a whole gave an annual harvest of 4,500 (Marshall et al., 2000).
A 2009 investigation in Congo by Endangered Species Inter- national revealed that in the Kouilou area, up to two gorillas a week are killed for the bushmeat markets of Point Noire (about 100km away). Over the course of a year, investigators visited the markets twice a month, recording the amount of bushmeat for sale. Mr Pierre Fidenci, president of Endangered Species Inter- national (ESI), told the BBC “Gorilla meat is sold pre-cut and smoked for about $6 per ‘hand-sized’ piece. Actual gorilla hands are also available... According to interviews and field surveys, we think we may have about 200 gorillas left in the area. But we estimate that 4% of the population is being killed each month, or 50% in a year. It is a lot.” Across the whole of Congo, ESI esti- mates that perhaps 300 gorillas are killed each year to supply the bushmeat markets (http://www.endangeredspeciesinternation- al.org/bushmeat2_gallery.html and article at http://news.bbc. co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_8256000/8256464.stm).