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Eastern lowland gorilla population plummets 70 percent since 1994

March 30, 2004 (Congo/Washington, DC) The world population of the Endangered eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri), found almost exclusively in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has plummeted by more than 70 percent in the past decade. Scientists estimate that fewer than 5,000 individuals remain, down sharply from 17,000 in 1994.

But a new multi-million dollar investment to save the gorilla is expected to help prevent the species' slide into extinction. Conservation International (CI), as well as its Global Conservation Fund (GCF), is providing a three-year, multi-million dollar grant to The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI) to strengthen its program in the region, helping the gorillas and other animals and plants found in their habitat.

"The staggering and almost immediate disappearance of the eastern lowland gorilla underscores the alarming decline of an entire ecosystem," said Juan Carlos Bonilla, senior director for Central Africa at Conservation International. "But this joint effort which includes everyone from tribal chiefs to non-governmental organizations and national governments represents an unprecedented commitment to preserve the region."

The investment will increase the protection of more than 3 million hectares in the region, which contains roughly 97 percent of the distribution and population of the eastern lowland gorilla. The region, known as the Maiko Tayna Kahuzi-Biega Landscape, contains a high degree of biological richness and species endemism. Although a protected area since 1938, Maiko National Park has been widely recognized as an ineffective "paper park" with no real protection.

Other species that call the area home, such as the chimpanzee, forest elephant, Nile crocodile, Congo peacock, Congo bay owl, okapi, and leopard, are also experiencing severe declines. The region is under severe threat from years of war, over-hunting, mining, and pressures from increasing human
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Contact: Brad Phillips
b.phillips@conservation.org
202-912-1532
Conservation International
30-Mar-2004


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