The first scientific description of the gorilla in 1847 prompted much public interest, which was boosted by the dramatic ac- counts of gorilla hunting by Paul du Chaillu (1861). This and a popular children’s book ‘The Gorilla Hunters’ (Ballantyne, 1861) led to the gorilla becoming one of the most desirable trophies amongst wealthy ‘sport hunters’ and naturalists in Europe and North America. Over the following century, hun- dreds of specimens were collected by adventurers, scientists and aristocrats, whether for scientific purposes or for seeking to prove their courage by facing a charging silverback. In 1921, for example, Prince William of Sweden led an expedition to the Virunga Volcanoes which killed 14 mountain gorillas; and Fred Merfield, an Englishman living in Cameroon in the 1930s, killed 115 western lowland gorillas in five years.
Most people would think this to be of historical interest only, but there are apparently still some trophy hunters who seek the thrill of a gorilla kill. As recently as 1996 Roger Cook, a British investigative journalist, exposed how professional hunters based in Spain’s Costa del Sol were offering to arrange illegal gorilla hunts in Cameroon: “The unacceptable face of big game hunt- ing… unscrupulous middle men… like José Iglesias and Luis Gomez, on the face of it legitimate sportsmen, but for the right money, they’ll arrange for you to shoot anything you like, any way you like, anywhere in the world – however endangered. Within minutes of meeting Mr Gomez, The Cook Report undercover team was offered the illegal shooting of gorillas, tiger and jag- uar.” (de Bergh, 2000). The price included smuggling the trophy into Nigeria, from where it would be sent to the hunter’s home.
According to well placed sources, such enquiries are still made today. Kai-Uwe Wollscheid, Director General of CIC, the Inter- national Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation, reports “the main market for the high-price segment hunts in Central Africa, namely Bongo and Sitatunga, Forest Buffalo and Ele- phant, is the US, with a growing interest emerging among Rus- sian hunters. Among the many US hunters that are subscrib-
Thirty-four million people living in the forests of Central Africa are consuming approximately 1.1 million metric ton of bush- meat annually – the domestic equivalent of 4 million cattle – matching consumption rates of meat in Europe and North America (BCTF, 2000c). In West Africa, human population den- sities are even higher, and hunting here has been so extensive that dietary dependence on rodents, the only group remaining in abundance, has emerged (BCTF, 2004). The current rate of population growth in West Africa is 2.6% per annum, but as the number of people grows and the area of forest shrinks, pres- sure and demand will exceed this rate (Barnes, 2002).
Ape Alliance/WSPA, 2006.
ing to the principles of sustainability in hunting, there seem to be a few, however, whose core interest is the mere number of collected (and iconic) species, rather then the hunting experi- ence as such. An interest in gorilla hunting is for sure not an issue among the true hunter conservationist – it was however raised among US hunters travelling to Cameroun.” Disturbing though this continued interest might be, no cases of gorillas be- ing killed by trophy hunters have come to light in recent years.
Nyungwe, Akagera and Volcanoes National parks all suffer from poaching, collection of bamboo and charcoal production. In the DRC, as wildlife may become more scarce with the excessive hunting, poachers and bushmeat hunters may shift towards large rodents and primates, firstly monkeys but also gorillas, bonobos and chimpanzees. Most bushmeat has traditionally been from ungulates. Surveys of African markets have shown that ape-meat, if present, comprises only one or two per cent of the trade (Stein, 2002b). But ape populations decline under almost any level of hunting, because they reproduce so slowly and death of key indi- viduals disrupts their complex social organisation.
An aerial survey of the Akagera park showed that between 1994 and 2002, wildlife declined by 50–80% due to human
Figure 13: As many of the parks and surrounding forests have lost 50–80% of their wildlife species, typically antelopes, zebras and other ungulates, the poachers are increasingly targeting primates including gorillas, bonobos and chimpanzees. A significant demand comes from bushmeat hunters to supply militias, refugee camps and mining and logging camps, where much of the work- force is forced. Thirty-four million people living in the forests of Central Africa are annually consuming approximately 1.1 million ton of bushmeat – the domestic equivalent of 4 million cattle –matching consumption rates of meat in Europe and North America.