The Grauer gorilla – the largest of the four gorilla subspecies – is experiencing a collapse in their population because of the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The population has dropped from 17,000 in 1995 to 3,800 today, according to new research by the Wildlife Conservation Society, Flora and Fauna International and the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature.
The gorilla – also known as the Eastern lowland gorilla – is only found in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and can weight up to 600lbs (270 kilograms). They are closely related to mountain gorillas.
“The crash in the gorilla population is a consequence of the human tragedy that has played out in eastern DRC,” report co-author Jefferson Hall, a staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, said in a statement.
“Armed factions terrorize innocent people and divide up the spoils of war with absolutely no concern for the victims or the environment.”
The Grauer’s gorilla’s entire range “has been consumed in conflict” since 1996, according to the report. War in the region has also affected the gorilla’s through increased deforestation, and the area has seen an increase in the illegal bushmeat trade and illegal mining.
“This has resulted in an almost complete breakdown of government control, including wildlife protection activities.”