Actions

Immediate improvements in law enforcement could dramatically reduce the impact of the commercial trade in bushmeat on western gorillas. The hunting of western gorillas is already illegal in all range states, but in many places these laws are not being enforced. Anti-poaching has proven to be the single most effective means of protecting apes in western equatorial Africa. It is the foundation upon which all other ape conservation activities rest. It needs increased and, just as important, sustained
funding.

National Parks do not provide protection from Ebola however. A better understanding of the spatial and temporal spread of the disease between and within species may allow development of a pro-active campaign to protect at-risk ape and human populations through vaccination and other potential control measures.

In the longer term, activities such as environmental education are essential for the conservation of the western gorilla.

The implementation of a conservation strategy to protect the western gorilla requires partnerships and collaborations between all the stakeholders in the Congo Basin.

The strategy is based on increased law enforcement, well-funded networks of protected areas and improved wildlife management in logging concessions, and so incorporates a range of different interest groups. These include the government, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, local communities and international donors. With so many different interests at stake, effective collaboration depends on building relationships of genuine collaboration and openness.

Law Enforcement

Strict enforcement of wildlife protection laws is the best way to guarantee the survival of western gorillas in the immediate term.

These enforcement activities are implemented by teams of ecoguards, working both inside protected areas and in peripheral areas, and includes targeting transport networks such as boats, trains and aeroplanes which are often used to transport bushmeat to markets.

In the longer term, awareness-raising campaigns need to be conducted amongst police and local authorities to improve the application of legal sanctions in cases of poaching.

Disease Surveillance & Control

Great ape health monitoring programs need to be developed across all areas that have been identified as a priority for western gorillas.

These should be backed up by rapid response teams that are able to react to cases of ape mortality.

Research needs to be targeted on Ebola epidemiology and control strategies.

Working with Logging Companies

Partnerships between conservation organizations and private sector logging companies have proved to be very successful in reducing threats to wildlife.

These partnerships involving logging companies working in the periphery zones of protected areas need to be extended, while strict control of access routes will prevent commercial bushmeat hunting.

In the longer term, all logging companies working in the central African region should be encouraged to participate in internationally recognized certification schemes, which include an obligation to respect and enhance wildlife protection laws.

Education

Education is essential to allow local people in to become involved in conservation. Given the cultural and ecological significance and all-round charisma of species such as gorillas, education can be an extremely powerful tool with which to effect change over the long term.

Approaches to environmental education vary depending on the region and the target audience, but in all cases the use of values or methods with which the audience can identify is essential to bring about a positive change in attitudes to apes and their conservation.