Loango Gorilla Project
|Project Location||Loango National Park, Gabon|
|Endangered Species||Western lowland gorilla|
|Land Area Protected||100 km2|
|Local People Employed||34|
Loango Gorilla Project
Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered, yet are understudied and receive relatively little on the ground protection across their range in Central Africa compared to mountain gorillas. Loango National Park was chosen as a project site to study them because the creation of thirteen national parks in Gabon in 2002 provides a remarkable opportunity to expand our knowledge of western lowland gorillas and effectively conserve them. The Loango Gorilla Project is part of the Department of Primatology at the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology.
The aim of the project is to maintain a long-term project of western lowland gorillas in Loango National Park, Gabon to a) assist the national park authorities with a gorilla tourism programme and b) better understand the gorillas’ ecology, behaviour, and population dynamics. Loango National Park is ecologically unique and distinct from other locations where western lowland gorillas have been studied; this translates into variability in their behavioural ecology.
The project's research has shown that the gorillas of Loango have a diet that is distinctively different from western lowland gorilla populations studied in other areas of Central Africa, largely due to differences in the forest ecology. Current research involves examining their movement ecology and social behaviour. The project uses camera traps and genetic analysis of faecal samples to monitor unhabituated gorillas and other large mammals, including elephants, in the project area. This enables a better understanding of the population dynamics of these critically endangered apes.
The project has succeeded in habituating one group of gorillas for tourism viewing and detailed behavioral observations. In collaboration with the Gabonese park authorities, gorilla tourism began in mid-2016 and the project will continue to work in the development and management of the tourism program, focusing on staff training and tourist education.
Additional components of the project include monitoring the project area for illegal activitiesin coordination with the park authorities as well as training Gabonese staff. The project assists with community development for its Gabonese staff by providing employment opportunities and capitalising on their traditional knowledge of African rainforests. The project employs approximately 30 pygmies from the Waka region of Gabon, a group that has been marginalised across Africa and does not have many employment opportunities.
Lastly, despite being a national park, there is relatively little financial and logistical support for conservation activities in Loango. In addition to supporting the Gabonese national park service through the development of the tourism programme, the project's presence in the national park helps to reduce the level of illegal activities in the project area and the park as a whole.
Tusk began supporting the Loango Gorilla Project in 2015, helping to fund its basic running costs including salaries for local employees, travel expenses for research volunteers & other employees and also basic day-to-day supplies such as food, research equipment and medical supplies.