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Mountain gorillas reduced by 75% in Central Africa

Italian WWF to meet with Virunga national park director

Mountain gorillas reduced by 75% in Central Africa

Rome, January 28 - The Italian chapter of the international environmental organisation WWF said on Monday that the mountain gorilla population in Central Africa has been reduced by 75% over the last 10 years, making the primates critically endangered. Approximately 880 gorillas are surviving in the wild, divided between the Virunga and Bwindi national parks that span the border area of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The gorillas are threatened by a combination of poaching, regional conflict, destruction of their natural habitat and capture for illegal pet trade. According to the United Nations, if action to protect the mountain gorilla is not taken the species risks extinction in the next 10 years, WWF said. The latest threat comes from oil industries, which have bought concessions for oil exploration in about 85% of the park of Virunga. "Exploration and mining would have a catastrophic impact on the local environment and its gorilla inhabitants," Isabella Pratesi, director of international conservation policies for WWF Italy said. "Hectares of forest would be destroyed and new roads would allow easy entry for poachers," Pratesi said. A baby gorilla can be sold for between 15,000 and 40,000 US dollars on the black market, while a hand sold as a trophy costs around six US dollars and a kilogram of meat can run from a few cents to a few dollars. "Living in a healthy habitat, however, each gorilla can earn approximately 25,000 US dollars per year for the tourism industry, in total up to 54.4 million US dollars a year," Pratesi said. Representatives from Italy's WWF will meet on Thursday with Virunga park director Emmanuel De Merode in Bruxelles.

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