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Catastrophic Decline of World's Largest Primate: 80% Loss of Grauer's Gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) Population Justifies Critically Endangered Status

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  • Andrew J. Plumptre
  • Stuart Nixon
  • Deo K. Kujirakwinja
  • Ghislain Vieilledent
  • Rob Critchlow
  • Elizabeth A. Williamson
  • Radar Nishuli
  • Andrew E. Kirkby
  • Jefferson S. Hall


Publication details

JournalPLoS ONE
DateAccepted/In press - 27 Jun 2016
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 19 Oct 2016
Issue number10
Number of pages13
Pages (from-to)1-13
Early online date19/10/16
Original languageEnglish


Grauer's gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri), the World's largest primate, is confined to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and is threatened by civil war and insecurity. During the war, armed groups in mining camps relied on hunting bushmeat, including gorillas. Insecurity and the presence of several militia groups across Grauer's gorilla's range made it very difficult to assess their population size. Here we use a novel method that enables rigorous assessment of local community and ranger-collected data on gorilla occupancy to evaluate the impacts of civil war on Grauer's gorilla, which prior to the war was estimated to number 16,900 individuals. We show that gorilla numbers in their stronghold of Kahuzi- Biega National Park have declined by 87%. Encounter rate data of gorilla nests at 10 sites across its range indicate declines of 82-100% at six of these sites. Spatial occupancy analysis identifies three key areas as the most critical sites for the remaining populations of this ape and that the range of this taxon is around 19,700 km2. We estimate that only 3,800 Grauer's gorillas remain in the wild, a 77% decline in one generation, justifying its elevation to Critically Endangered status on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Bibliographical note

© 2016 Plumptre et al.

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