December 9, 1995
Web posted at: 6:30 a.m. EST (1130 GMT)
From Correspondent Gary Strieker
NAIROBI (CNN) -- Every year in the region of eastern Cameroon and Congo, hundreds of gorillas and chimpanzees are condemned to die from abuse and malnutrition after their parents die a much quicker death. They are shot by hunters.
Many might think it appalling, but in this part of Africa, people hunt gorillas and chimpanzees as a source of food. "They've been eating these animals for a very long time and there's no real reason in their mind why they should change," says Karl Ammann with the World Society for Protection of Animals.
In the past, the great apes were protected in a vast forest, a stronghold that limited the numbers of animals that hunters could kill and carry back to their villages.
But now, European logging companies are opening up huge tracts of forest, building roads deep into areas never before penetrated by hunters.
Drivers of logging trucks buy the meat of gorillas and chimpanzees directly from hunters on the roadside. Down the road in towns and cities, the drivers sell the meat as delicacies at three times the price of beef.
Man's closest relatives are on the endangered species list under international treaty, but are now the staple of a growing commercial trade in meat. Experts say that the numbers of chimpanzees and Western Lowland gorillas remaining in the wild are unknown, but hunters are killing thousands of these animals every year.
The laws in these countries forbid the hunting of great apes, but the laws are seldom enforced. And the French and German logging companies, whose operations are making the poaching possible, are doing little to stop it. "It's happening right on their doorstep and the logging companies seem to be powerless to do something, and so are the conservationists," Ammann says.
Orphans are the by-product of the meat trade. A baby gorilla taken from her dead mother has little chance to survive. The World Society for the Protection of Animals takes in many of the orphans and is leading a campaign to save them from extinction.
Copyright © 1995 Cable News Network, Inc.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.