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You are in: Bristol > Nature > Nature features > Bristol Zoo working to save endangered gorillas

Romina and Namoki

Namoki is quick to return to mum

Bristol Zoo working to save endangered gorillas

Wild gorillas in parts of Africa are being hunted, killed and sold for meat and Bristol Zoo is working to try and stop the killing and care for the orphans of the trade. See how you can help.

Bristol Zoo Gardens has five western lowland gorillas - three adults and two babies. It was the first zoo in the country to have a gorilla.

It has Jock, a silverback male and two female gorillas, Salome and Romina.

Namoki was born to Romina in May 2005 and Salome gave birth to Komale in 2007. 

Western lowland gorillas in the wild are under threat from the illegal commercial bushmeat trade - and the zoo is not only involved with breeding them in captivity, but also works on various projects to highlight the issues and provide funding to counter the trade.

Namoki - Picture by Peter Budd


The western lowland gorilla has recently been recognised as critically endangered by the World Conservation Union.

They come from an area of dense forest and swamp which covers SE Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Congo and the SW Central African Republic.

However their native forests are being exploited for their timber, which opens up routes into the forest providing easier access to hunters who kill gorillas for meat and trophies.

Without major conservation efforts, it is feared that all the apes in Cameroon could be wiped out within the next few decades.

No one really knows the scale of the killing, but in just one district of Cameroon it is estimated that 800 gorillas are shot for meat every year.

Often, when the adults are killed their young are taken and sold as pets, but they frequently die of starvation or disease within a few days.

Salome and Komale - pic by Peter Budd

Salome and Komale

Bristol Zoo supports the Cameroon Wildlife Aid Fund (CWAF) by providing funding and business and veterinary services support.

The zoo also holds a seat on the Board at CWAF and is actively involved in campaigning against the bushmeat trade. 

Hunting endangered primates including gorillas and chimpanzees is illegal as they are protected species, but the bushmeat trade is the biggest threat that they face.

90% of the chimpanzee population has already been lost and without major conservation efforts it is feared that all the apes in Cameroon could be wiped out within decades.

As a member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), Bristol Zoo Gardens participated in the EAZA Bushmeat Campaign, along with over 100 other European zoos.

The zoo has been involved in conservation work with gorillas in Cameroon since the mid 1990s.

CWAF runs a rescue centre at Mvog Betsi Zoo in conjunction with the Cameroon Ministry for the Environment and Forests as well as a sanctuary at Mefou National Park offering a safe home for the orphaned animals in its care, as close to their natural environment as possible.

Namoki - pic by Peter Budd


The zoo also works with the United Nations environment programme Great Apes Partnership, which works with communities around protected areas.

So, not only does the zoo breed gorillas, it tries to highlight the issues to raise public awareness. People help to pay for all this work by visiting the zoo, but members of the public can go further by making specific donations or adopting an orphaned gorilla.

All of the individual apes at the CWAF primate sanctuary in Cameroon, West Africa can be adopted. These animals are orphans from the wild.

Their parents have been slaughtered by hunters as part of the bushmeat trade and the young orphans have been confiscated before they could be sold as pets or for meat.

Animals at the zoo are also available for adoption. Over 450 different species of animal at Bristol Zoo Gardens, including the western lowland gorillas can be adopted through the scheme.

For more information on these issues please visit the Bristol Zoo Gardens web site, the CWAF web site or the EAZA web site. Click on the links on the top right hand side of this page.

last updated: 16/05/2008 at 13:18
created: 16/05/2008

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