Habitat loss and bushmeat hunting have wiped out 75% of the population in the last two decades, with an estimated 3,500 or fewer still surviving. The Walikale Community Gorilla and Forest Conservation Project was set up in 2003 at the request of village chiefs to preserve this forest which contains over 700 Eastern lowland gorillas. It has no other formal protected status and no government conservation presence.
The core of the project is regular gorilla tracking and monitoring by local rangers. This also provides information on other species in the forest such as chimpanzee, leopard, guenon monkeys and red river hog. At the same time rangers remove snares and traps set for bushmeat. There is also a strong community outreach element. This includes meetings with village chiefs about the impacts of hunting and resource gathering in the forest, and screenings of an environmental documentary that has reached over 10,000 people. The success of this work is evident from the reduced number of snares collected by the ranger team.
Funding from Tusk has allowed the project to equip and train over thirty trackers as well as build outposts in different sectors of the forest, enabling the teams to spend up to five days in the field.
Walikale is by far the largest population of the critically endangered Eastern lowland gorilla outside a National Park. The continuing work of this simple but effective community-based project is vital to keeping these animals safe.