Why are gorillas poached?
Why are gorillas poached? This is a strong question that has to do with the reduction in the number of these mountain gorilla species in the world. The last census carried out to find out the number of mountain gorillas in the world showed there are about 1,000 individuals left and this comes as good news as in the past years, this species was listed on IUCN’s list as critically endangered species factored by the few individuals less than 1,000 that were left in the world and were being hunted down by poachers and many other factors that were not favoring their growth but in the 2000’s, measures were put in place to see the numbers get to where they are now. The mountain gorilla is no longer listed on the critically endangered but the endangered species which is a plus to celebrate. This was announced by the IUCN in 2019 as the numbers of the mountain gorillas was estimated to have increased.
The growth in the population of the mountain gorillas was mainly factored by the various conservation efforts and projects of the different gorilla parks that is Virunga National park, Mgahinga gorilla national park, Bwindi impenetrable National park, and Volcanoes national park. The authorities and the park rangers have personally contributed to ensuring the increase of the gorillas in several ways like protecting the gorillas from poachers, monitoring the gorillas closely, also putting in measures like limiting the number of visitors to visit a gorilla family per day so as to maintain carrying capacity of the forest. They have also contributed by starting up projects for the local communities around the park so that they get on board with the conservation efforts and interest in saving this great species. In the 2000s, the different homes of the gorillas have been protected and this has also been a major factor in the growth. Some parks later than others but are catching on.
Poaching of animals has always been a major challenge and biggest reason for the extinction of some animal species. In the earlier years the especially mid ’70s, animal or bush meat was a delicacy and that is what the people used to survive on as poverty levels were high but with the modernization came a few changes which not everyone was in support of and these are the poachers. Poaching is now illegal in all national parks and if found guilty you are punishable by death. Poaching is the hunting or killing by shooting, trapping, or capturing of wild animals that are within a protected area. Gorilla parks like Bwindi Impenetrable National park, Mgahinga gorilla national park and Volcanoes national park have managed almost 99% to ensure no-poaching is happening in their vicinity not leaving far behind Virunga National park of DRCongo that is also pushing and the rate or cases of poaching mountain gorilla is minimal as the years go by and people are sensitized about the value of conserving the mountain gorillas. This park is still lagging behind because of the ignorant community that has killed up to 170 rangers in the past decade who tried to enforce non-poaching laws.
There are a few reasons as to why animals in general are being poached or have been targets to poachers and the biggest case is the high value of the animal parts on the black market. Ivory from elephant and rhino tusks is priced quite high so people get the temptation to kill to make some money. Animals are also poached or captured to be kept as pets for prestige by the poachers and the local community tends to give them respect for their daring act. Poachers also look at the animals as a source of food as some species are a delicacy among communities like the crocodiles, snakes whereas some animals are poached for their medicinal value as believed by the local people. Others are poached to be used for making jewelry and bag especially the skin of these animals.
Some cases of poaching have however been tried to be justified like a case where one kills a wild animal in self-defense or protection of their property like the wild animals attacking their livestock or crops on the farm. Poaching is mainly in the 3rd world countries mostly Africa due to the high poverty levels and also the high number of the existence of rare animal species as these highly poached animals like rhinos and elephants are found in Africa. Also, most cases have been associated with the military groups in those countries as they have the resources and access to the wild animals.
Mountain gorillas are majorly poached for bush meat for both commercial and subsistence use as it is a delicacy in some of these countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo but with the sensitization of the people, there has been a great improvement seen. Also, the rebel groups of the country would poach the gorillas for survival but with the end of the civil war in the country, there is great hope for the mountain gorillas in Virunga National park. The wars in the region besides poaching are the reason for the death of this unique species as some mountain gorillas were killed in the shootings, bombings, and fires as the Mahura forest of Virunga was one of the hiding places for the rebel groups. The combined efforts of Virunga national park authorities, the security team, park rangers, and the local community has seen the revival of this forest into a safe place for visitors. Tourism in the Virunga national park is at a great and steady growth rate as evidenced in 2019 where more than 1,000 guests visited the park after the reopening in February.
You can support the efforts of the park to eliminate poaching directly by offering financial assistance to the projects. Take some time and pass by the Virunga office and or even indirectly by booking a tour to the park as a portion of this fee you pay goes back to the projects also is the money that park rangers stay employed and motivated to protect the mountain gorillas. When in the country, don’t forget to purchase a few or even if one commodity from the local people so that the awareness of the value of tourism is witnessed.