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Walikale moves forward
29 June 2007

Walikalie is an isolated area of pristine rainforest in the Congo basin forests and home to one of the only remaining Eastern lowland gorilla populations in the world. It is thought that the number of gorillas living in this area in North Kivu Provence once stood at 17,000 individuals but this number has been slashed dramatically in recent years. Coltan mining and the subsequent deforestation, water pollution and hunting, is largely to blame for this tragic population decline.

In 2001, local Walikale chiefs and their communities expressed a desire to protect the rare biodiversity of the rainforest from the threat of the mining activities and approached the Gorilla Organization for support. In 2003 the Walikale Gorilla and Forest Conservation project was launched and the immediate priority was to conduct a thorough census of the gorillas and other fauna throughout the 720,000 hectare reserve.

However, the occupation of the forest by rebel troops, fighting for supremacy and mineral resources made much of the area too dangerous for any gorilla conservation activity to take place, and the Walikale project suffered as a result.  

Fours years on and prospects are beginning to look up for the Eastern lowland gorillas of Walikale. The rebel troops, who were controlling the forest and preventing ongoing conservation activity, have now left the region and the Gorilla Organization’s team have been able to continue the forest surveys. Trackers have now confirmed the presence of 324 individual gorillas within 31 families in the North East quarter of the reserve taking the total number of identified gorillas to 459 individuals within 41 families. This population gives the Eastern lowland gorilla a significant chance to survive.

During patrols of the forest, the 24-strong tracking team have successfully reduced the number of illegal traps left by hunters, and as accessibility improves we hope to see this trend continue. This work is complemented by an awareness raising education programme in the surrounding communities and a microcredit scheme, which improves the socio-economic climate and reduces the human population’s dependency on the forest.

With the forest surveys well underway, a management plan for the forests resources can be developed and the Walikale project looks forward to a prosperous and exciting few years.
for further information or photographs contact:

David Hewitt, Communications Manager
The Gorilla Organization, 110 Gloucester Avenue, London, Nw1 8HX
Tel: 020 7916 4974
Mobile: 07801 971123