2009 has been officially declared as ‘Year of the Gorilla’ in an attempt to promote this important creature and increase awareness of the threats the species faces that could have a serious effect on gorilla populations. A project by YoG is looking to supply local people of the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo with affordable fuel efficient stoves to reduce the demand for charcoal from the rainforests.
Gorilla numbers have been declining for a number of reasons, mainly the result of man’s actions. Rainforest deforestation impacts on gorillas by destroying their natural habitats, leaving them without the natural surroundings they have evolved to live in. Destruction of the rainforests funds many industries in addition to charcoal production, including the increasing market for palm oil which is being touted as an alternative to oil. Palm oil, however, has twice the carbon footprint, and therefore environmental impact of crude oil.
Other activities impacting negatively on gorillas are hunting, due to the increased popularity of bush meat, mining in areas occupied by gorillas, and the armed conflicts are also having their effect. There is concern too among experts that if gorilla populations are not saved, as well as the loss of a species, there would be further detriment to the environment due to the important role gorillas play in seed dispersion. Not only do gorillas spread a huge number of seeds, but the successful germination and strength of seedlings that are distributed by gorillas is significantly higher than seeds that simply fall to the ground from the plant.
Ambassador for the YoG, Ian Redmond OBE, said,
“I am proud to be an Ambassador for the YoG. Fascinating though gorillas are because of their similarities to humans, we also need to focus on their key ecological role. They are second only to elephants in the number of seeds dispersed per unit area, and symbolise the fate of the Congo Basin forests, which the planet needs for climate stability.”