More than trees – Why Forests need Gorillas

In their 2010 article in UNEP’s ‘Our Planet’,  several conservationists including by then the Year of Gorilla Ambassador Ian Redmond, Moses Mapesa of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and Aggrey Rwetsiba of Rwanda Development Board describe in a compelling manner the crucial role played by great apes and other large mammals in forests.

They function as seed dispensers and are essential for many plant species’ life-cycles and the long-term integrity of forest ecosystems. As illustrated by the example of gorilla watching tourism in Uganda, they can also make a major contribution economically, and are worth much more alive than dead.

Here are the reasons why forests need gorillas and this piece contains a bounty of additional information.

A Conversation on Poachers, Gorillas and Copper Wires

Ian Redmond is a tropical field-biologist. He’s renowned for over 30 years of work with great apes, elephants and other species. He calls himself a ‘reluctant conservationist’ – he would rather study his subjects in peace than document their continued decline.

After being Year of the Gorilla Ambassador in 2009. In the year 2010 Ian was named Ambassador for the UNEP Convention on Migratory Species (www.cms.int). He was recently in Bonn, where the Convention’s secretariat is located, for a scientific advisory meeting on the state of migratory species, and took the opportunity to join Deutsche Welle Radio in their studio.

In the interview, Ian describes what it was like to come face to face with gorilla poachers during last year’s State of the Gorilla journey. Here is the whole interview;

Mountain Gorillas are starting to thrive and with the conservation efforts in Rwanda and Uganda that Ian pioneered along with his mentor Dian Fossy, they are the only great ape in the world that are actually expanding in numbers.

There is a lot of work to be done however, Gorillas can be found in 10 countries in Africa and they are hunted for their meat. Poaching is a serious problem and they are even killed by farmers for destroying their crops.

Some tribes revere the gorilla and would never hurt it while others revere them for their strength and believe that by eating Gorilla meat they will in turn gain strength themselves.  Other people eat gorilla meat simply because it is food.

The Gorilla’s main obstacle in survival however is habitat loss. Great changes need to be done in the world to conserve our natural resources.  Ian is now speaking and lecturing on this issue.  He has attended climate summits and conferences around the world and is working relentlessly to make a difference.