Conservationists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) have supported the government of Equatorial Guinea in the high-profile confiscation of an infant gorilla.
Afangui, whose name means ‘a forest of gorillas’ in the local language Fang, is a female thought to be two years old. The orphaned youngster was being kept illegally to attract tourists to a popular expatriate beach restaurant before being reported to local authorities.
The possession, hunting, sale, and consumption of all primate species in Equatorial Guinea has been illegal since 2007 but until recently the law protecting the country’s rich and unique diversity of primates has not been properly enforced.
ZSL field conservationist Juliet Wright is working closely with collaborating organisations and the Equatorial Guinea government to prevent further wild animals from suffering a similar fate, and to ensure their survival in the wild.
Juliet says: “The oil boom in Equatorial Guinea has resulted in an influx of expatriate workers who are creating demand for infant primates as pets. To obtain a baby gorilla, the mother and other members of the group are killed, with the rest taken as bushmeat. We wanted to make an example of this case and dissuade others from buying infant apes.”
Following local publicity of the confiscation of Afangui, the government has stepped up its awareness campaign across mainland Equatorial Guinea with ministry officials distributing leaflets about the law in communities and destroying seized primate carcasses being sold as bushmeat.
ZSL conservation programme manager Dr Noëlle Kümpel adds: “The government is to be congratulated in taking such a strong stand to implement the law, and we hope that efforts to raise awareness of and enforce conservation legislation will continue. The Western lowland gorilla is a critically endangered species and populations in Equatorial Guinea are currently under severe pressure from hunting and habitat loss.”
There is currently no appropriate facility for rescued animals in Equatorial Guinea, but with cooperation from the Cameroonian government the infant gorilla has been safely transported to the Ape Action Africa sanctuary in neighbouring Cameroon, where she is now readjusting to life in more natural surroundings. With continued assistance from ZSL and Conservation International, Equatoguinean government officials are now taking the necessary steps towards fully enforcing the national primate conservation law.