Gabon’s forests are home to two great ape sub-species, the western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), and central chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes troglodytes). Chimpanzees are listed as Endangered species on IUCN red-list while western lowland gorillas are considered as Critically Endangered. Great apes across the region are under threat mainly from commercial hunting and poaching, and the Ebola virus.
Due to the vast tracts of continuous forest that remain in Gabon, apes are in fact found almost everywhere apart from around urbanized areas. The Ivindo-Chaillu complex in Gabon’s interior and the Loango-Moukalaba Doudou Complex near the coast have been identified as Exceptional Priority Ape Areas due to their concentration of apes. The extremely high ape densities in the north of Gabon were lost when the Ebola virus swept through in the 1990’s. The good news is that this northern region actually has the most remote and least populated forests, which should allow a recovery of the apes if the national parks are effectively protected against hunting.
One of WCS’ main interventions is to provide technical support to the National Parks Authority and the Ministry for Water and Forests on wildlife law enforcement. We also carry out wildlife surveys that provide valuable data on the status of ape populations. This is analyzed and used at the scale of a protected area, at the scale of a country but also at the regional scale. At our key sites, we carry out a number of field-based activities such as the development of ape-based tourism, and environmental education with local communities.