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Published April 6, 2010 09:11 AM

Guerrillas could drive gorillas toward extinction in Congo, warns UN

Gorillas may disappear across much of the Congo Basin by the mid 2020s unless action is taken to protect against poaching and habitat destruction, warns a new report issued by United Nations and INTERPOL.

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The Last Stand of the Gorilla - Environmental Crime and Conflict in the Congo Basin — released at the CITES meeting in Doha, Qatar — lists a multitude of threats to gorillas, including the bushmeat trade, outbreaks of the ebola virus, illegal logging, mining, and charcoal production. The report warns that that militias in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are exacerbating the gorilla crisis through trafficking and involvement in other illicit activities. Gorilla bushmeat moves through the same smuggling channels as illegally extracted timber, diamonds, gold and coltan (a mineral used in cell phones). Further, insecurity in the region has driven hundreds of thousands of people into refugee camps, which has increased pressure on natural resources, including forest habitat for gorillas and the apes themselves.

"With the current and accelerated rate of poaching for bushmeat and habitat loss, the gorillas of the Greater Congo Basin may now disappear from most of their present range within ten to fifteen years," said UNEP's Christian Nellemann, lead author of the report, in a statement. "We are observing a decline in wildlife across many parts of the region, and also side-effects on poaching outside the region and on poaching for ivory and rhino horn, often involving poachers and smugglers operating from the Congo Basin, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda, to buyers in Asia and beyond."

"This is a tragedy for the great apes and one also for countless other species being impacted by this intensifying and all too often illegal trade," Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Program (UNEP), added in the statement.

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