Mbeli Bai Study, Republic of Congo
Tragically western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) numbers are predicted to fall by over 80% between 1980 and 2046*! The two main threats are commercial hunting and a highly contagious disease called Ebola. The slow reproductive rate of gorillas not only makes population recovery slow but also makes the collection of life history data very time-consuming. This data is essential for establishing effective conservation strategies for this subspecies of gorilla.
In 2010, Dublin Zoo began supporting the Mbeli Bai Study** in the Republic of Congo. This project has been collecting valuable long-term data on gorillas in Mbeli Bai in the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park since 1995. The national park is a rare example of an intact forest wilderness with low human disturbance. Not only is this area an important stronghold for western lowland gorillas, but it is also home to forest elephants, chimpanzees, approximately 300 bird species and thousands of plant species. The Mbeli Bai Study provides a deterrent to hunting and logging. In fact this area of the national park has been free from illegal human activities for over 20 years! The study also engages in local community outreach programmes and international awareness raising. Finally, the study notes any unusual health signs for indications of Ebola or other diseases in gorillas. The work carried out by the Mbeli Bai study is making a real contribution to the conservation of western lowland gorillas.
* Western lowland gorillas are classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) Red List of Threatened Species (2010)
**The Mbeli Bai Study is a collaboration between the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Government of the Republic Congo.