The hunting, trading and consumption of gorillas – and other apes – is almost universally illegal in all Congo Basin countries.
However, poaching continues unabated due to a lack of enforcement of national and international laws, coupled with ineffective judiciary systems.
The commercial trade in bushmeat, which occurs throughout west and central Africa, is today the biggest threat to gorillas.
Apes are being killed to primarily to supply high-end demand for meat in urban centers, where the consumption of ape meat is considered to be prestigious amongst the wealthy elite.
Estimating numbers of gorillas poached is difficult because they are often butchered and eaten on the spot, or their meat is smoked for later sale in towns.
Although gorillas may constitute only a small proportion of all animals killed for the bushmeat trade, they present easy targets for hunters, and in many areas gorillas are favoured by hunters because of the weight of saleable meat.
Gorillas’ low reproductive rates means that even low levels of hunting can cause a population decline, which could take many generations to be reversed. Gorillas are also frequently maimed or killed by traps and snares intended for other forest animals such as antelopes.
Traditional medicine and live animal trade
Gorillas are also sought after as pets or trophies and for their body parts, which are used in medicine and as magical charms.