Illegal mining hits Congo gorilla population: conservationists – by Ed Stoddard (Reuters U.S. – April 6, 2016)

http://www.reuters.com/

JOHANNESBURG – The world’s largest gorilla sub-species has seen its population fall 77 percent over the past two decades, a trend linked to illegal mining for coltan, a key mineral used in the production of cell phones and electronics, a new report has found.

Grauer’s gorilla, the planet’s biggest primate which can weigh up to 400 pounds (180 kgs), is found in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where minerals have been plundered for decades under the smokescreen of conflict and instability.

A report this week by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Fauna & Flora International found that its numbers had fallen to 3,800 from an estimated 17,000 in 1995.

“One of the primary causes of the decline in Grauer’s gorilla numbers has been the expansion in artisanal mining for coltan and other minerals. Most of these artisanal mining sites are remote, which means that the miners often turn to local wildlife for food,” the organizations said in a statement.

Artisanal mining often involves the illegal extraction of minerals by hand or other makeshift methods.

“Although protected by law, gorillas are highly prized as bushmeat due to their large size and because they are easily tracked and killed as they move in groups on the ground in their small home ranges,” the groups said in the statement.

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