Poaching of western gorillas in western equatorial Africa occurs despite the fact that they are protected under both national and international laws in all range states. Although hunters rarely target apes, the apes are killed when encountered and caught in wire snares.
The commercial hunting of wildlife for meat has reached crisis proportions in Central Africa, and now poses a greater threat to the survival of western gorillas than habitat destruction.
Over 24 million people live in the Congo Basin, consuming around one million metric tons of bushmeat per year, and with populations continuing to expand, meat consumption is expected to rise by as much as 3% per year. This means that western gorillas and other wildlife are being removed from the forest at numbers that cannot be sustained by natural population growth rates.
It is the commercialization of the bushmeat trade that has pushed many wildlife populations towards extinction. For thousands of years, bushmeat has been part of the subsistence of rural populations in Africa. But as the population of Central Africa has become increasingly urbanized and incomes has risen, the commercial trade in bushmeat has rocketed. Even low hunting pressure can have adverse effects on ape populations because they are long-lived species with slow reproductive rates.