Sian Glaessner | 27.08.2003 00:52
In just 3 years the worlds’ population of Eastern Lowland Gorillas has plummeted from around 17,000 to little more than 2,000. This shocking and dramatic decline is caused almost entirely by humans: human encroachment into the gorillas’ forest; human destruction of the gorillas’ habitat; and perhaps most dreadful of all, humans hunting and killing the gorillas for their meat.
For centuries the eastern lowland gorillas lived in abundance in the Khuzi-Biega National Park in the Democratic republic of Congo, but just 10 years ago they were dealt a series of devastating blows.
First, war and civil unrest struck the region. Local militia, some funded by foreign governments in a bid to further control over the regions’ valuable mineral resources, used the forest as cover, setting up hundreds of camps hidden deep inside the National park. Refugees fleeing genocide settled in camps around the park, their illegal logging destroyed much of the tree cover and, just when the level of humans in and around the forest had reached an all time high, coltan, a precious mineral vital for technology such as mobile phones, was found within the Parks boundaries. The coltan miners live in squalid circumstances under paramilitary supervision, they eat what they can find- increasingly the eastern lowland gorillas have become a staple part of their diet.
The Diane Fossey Gorilla fund is involved in 3 projects in this area:
1) The Khuzi-Biega National Park: Colombite tantalum, coltan is found on a few places on the planet and is vital for computers, mobile phones and video games. The diane fossey fund is working actively on the ground and in client countries with companies and governments involved to bring the Coltan issue to the fore.
2) Mount Tshiabirimu: towering 3000 meters above the shores of lake Edward on the Eastern Borders of the DRC it is here that a population of these endangered primates live under the watchful eye of the Diane Fossey Gorilla Funds field team. The area is effectively a war zone. The field team patrol daily: deterring poachers, clearing traps and snares (50 a day) and study the behaviour of the gorillas living locally.
3) The Walikale Gorilla and Forest Conservation Project:This huge expanse of tropical forest lies 185km north of Goma in the DRC and despite it being the essential habitat of at least 60 family groups of eastern lowland gorillas, has no internationally recognised protected status. The diane fossey gorilla fund works alone in this region to protect and monitor the gorilla populations.
What can you do? Contact the diane Fossey gorilla fund for more info: www.dianefossey.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Why not write to mobile phone/ computer manufacturers asking them to reassure you that they do not use coltan mined from the DRC?