Gorillas are endangered prey in Central African forests
February 21, 1997
Web posted at: 5:10 p.m. EST (2210 GMT)
From Correspondent Gary Strieker
EASTERN CAMEROON (CNN) -- Deep in the rain forests of Central
Africa, a hunter sits beside the carcass of a dead gorilla,
an endangered animal protected by law in Cameroon. The man,
brandishing the gorilla's dismembered hand, boasts that this
is one of many apes he's killed.
Why would anyone care about the animal, the hunter asks. In
the forest, he says, it's a war between man and savage beast.
The widespread slaughter of endangered animals in eastern
Cameroon, like lowland gorillas and chimpanzees, is a
mounting problem that could drive the great apes from the
face of the Earth.
A hunter can fetch roughly $30 for the carcass of a 400-pound
male gorilla. The meat, known as bush meat, is destined for
markets in cities and towns where consumers pay more for it
than beef or pork.
Rescue operation low on money
At the zoo in Limbe, a chief trading port in Cameroon,
volunteers care for orphaned baby gorillas and chimpanzees --
their mothers were sold for meat; the babies sold as pets.
Government officials seized some of the animals from
poachers, but most were given to the zoo by people who
bought them from hunters.
"The baby, if it survives, tends to bring in more money for
the hunter than the carcass. That encourages the hunter to go
out and look for females with infants," volunteer
Patricia Gleason said.
However, the zoo's rescue-operation program, Pandrillus, is
running out of funds and space for the ever-increasing number
of orphans. Volunteer Anna Randall holds up an orphaned animal and rubs
its stomach. A smile spreads across the animal's face.
"This is Chela," Randall said. "He was confiscated from a
bush taxi that was carrying his mother's carcass and him in a
Logging poses threat
The widespread slaughter of the animals is compounded by
expanding timber operations, primarily conducted by European
and Asian companies. When companies clear land and build
logging roads that lead deep into forests, hunters follow the
roads to track down prey.
Hunters also use logging trucks to carry meat out of the
forests, and some sell their kills to logging workers and
their families in company towns.
Residents in the towns say they have no choice but to eat the
bush meat because pork and beef are not available.
"When the hunter kills an elephant, everybody buys it. When
it's a gorilla, everybody buys it," explained Ndzana Ndzana,
government minister of environment and forests.
And on the logging roads, hunters say they don't like their
way of life, but they claim it's the only way to feed their
families. There are no other jobs in Cameroon, one hunter
But as timber companies press deeper into the forest,
followed by the hunters, it is clear what the outcome will
be: a mounting disaster that could lead to the extinction of
some of the world's most endangered animals.
Related sites: Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.