Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Lost colony of gorillas found -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

ELEANOR HALL: It's a discovery that overnight has virtually doubled estimates of the world's
gorilla population.

Scientists working in the Republic of Congo have discovered a community of more than 120,000
Western Lowland gorillas.

The discovery comes as a research by the International Union for Conservation suggests that nearly
half the world's monkeys and gorillas are in danger of extinction.

Michael Edwards has our report.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Monkeys, apes and other primates are mankind's closest relatives. But new research
conducted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature suggest nearly half of the world's
monkeys and gorillas are in danger of extinction.

Dr Jean-Christophe Vie is the deputy head of the IUCN species program.

JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VIE: They are our closest relatives so it is quite frightening to see what we are
doing to our closest relatives. So if we don't manage, despite the commitment by all governments on
earth to stop bio-diversity loss, if we can not stop the loss of primates, what is going to happen
to fish and insects and frogs and all these other creatures and plants and all these creatures
which are really important for us - for our own survival.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: The hunt for monkey meat and the loss of forests has resulted in 303 of the
world's 634 primate species being classed as vulnerable or endangered.

Dr Vie says many of them are literally being eaten to extinction. He says the situation is worst in
south-east Asia.

JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VIE: If you look at the country's with the highest percentage of threatened
species, the countries in south-east Asia are all in the top ten because of the high rate of
deforestation in this part of the world. So, very few pristine habitats left.

There is also the pet trade contributing to that as well. Only a bit, traditional medicine but it
is nothing compared to habitat loss and direct hunting.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: But Dr Vie says the developed world also needs to realise its demand for resources
impacts on primate habitats.

JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VIE: Everything you buy, I mean if you buy tropical wood, if you have a big car and
you want to use bio-fuels, this is produced in a place where you have monkeys, where you have apes.
The same will cell-phones. I mean a special mineral comes from a place where gorillas live so you
have an impact directly by, what you buy you have a direct impact on primate population.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: But the news isn't all bad. Scientists working in Africa have discovered what is
being described as 'the mother load' of gorillas. An estimated 125,000 gorillas have been
discovered in dense rainforest in an area the size of Switzerland, in the Republic of Congo.

Dr James Deutsch is the director of the Africa Program at the Wildlife Conservation Society - one
of the agencies behind the project. He told Radio National the project took almost 15 years to
complete; but that it's effectively doubled estimates of the world's gorilla population overnight.

JAMES DEUTSCH: They called the area the 'Green Abyss' and they knew that there were gorillas there
but they had no idea how many. And it took us almost 15 years to get the wherewithal and the
courageous people to get in and do a serious survey of this area in northern Congo - the Green
Abyss.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Gorillas in the region are under threat from hunters who sell their meat. And the
downside of the discovery is that the gorillas may become a target.

But Dr Deutsch says this new population is protected by its remote location.

JAMES DEUTSCH: The bush meat challenge that these animals face from poaching is not wealthy people
coming in from far away as it is for example with ivory from elephants. It really is local people
feeding into markets for meat to supply loggers and other immigrants on the ground.

So we don't think that announcing this news to going to cause a problem. In fact, we wouldn't have
made this announcement if we didn't feel that this was a strategy to actually move the conservation
agenda forward.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: And Dr Deutsch hasn't ruled out that there may be other areas that have
undiscovered gorilla populations.

JAMES DEUTSCH: We picked the largest areas that we don't know about. But never say never; I mean
we've been through now most of northern Congo but it is always possible that we could come across
additional pockets of gorillas and chimpanzees. So as the slogan says never stop exploring.

ELEANOR HALL: That is Dr James Deutsch from Wildlife Conservation ending Michael Edwards' report.