23 September 2009 – Ian Redmond, CMS Year
of the Gorilla Ambassador returned home to the UK at the
weekend, having completed a groundbreaking State of the
Gorilla Journey, in this Year of the Gorilla. In 5 weeks,
Ian has travelled through eight of the 10 gorilla range
states in Central Africa, using local buses wherever possible.
Ian maintained daily blogs of his encounters along the way
with local villagers, traders, hunters, conservationists,
government officials and even former child soldiers. Video
interviews with a wide range of people, all with a story
to tell that helps to illustrate the complexities of trying
to conserve gorillas and their habitats in a region beset
by poverty and frequent unrest, will be uploaded shortly.
Here is a sample from one of Ian Redmond's gripping reports:
Peter Kabi is a 28-year-old farmer with an engaging smile;
he has also killed a Cross River Gorilla. He is one of the
hunters being targeted by a WCS project that retrains people
who once depended on hunting for a significant part of their
income. Peter chose snail farming as his new way of life,
and during my State of the Gorilla Safari visit to Nigeria,
he showed me the almost complete building - a low wall with
a wooden framework covered in mesh and fly-screen. The latter
is important to keep out army ants that can devastate a
crop of snails in a few hours.
I asked him when he killed his last gorilla. “Two
years ago,” he replied. My mind raced - that was much
more recent than I’d expected. “Was it a male
or a female?” “A silverback.” “Did
you know there are fewer than 100 gorillas in Nigeria?”
I asked. “It doesn’t take long to count down
from 100 - maybe you brought the population to 99 or 98.
Did you know that it takes 15 years for a baby to grow into
a silverback?” He didn’t, but he did agree to
do an interview for YoG, which you’ll soon be able
to see on my blog site.
I was keen to hear the story of how and why he killed the
gorilla, and after doing YoG interviews with the chief of
the village, we adjourned to the bar and I bought a round
of drinks. Bit by bit, I teased the story out of Peter.
He first began hunting at 24, using his father’s
gun. His father was the village chief. He first shot a monkey,
then bushpig, porcupine, bushbaby and so on. Two years ago
he was going to the family banana field at about 8.30am
and heard what he thought was someone stealing bananas.
He hid behind a tree and watched. When he saw it was a gorilla,
he fired and hit it in the chest. The gorilla screamed and
ran away. He was using a shotgun with small pellets - not
ideal for killing large animals. For half an hour he waited,
shivering with fear and adrenaline, then he cautiously followed
the gorilla’s trail. He hadn’t gone far and
when he saw it ahead he re-loaded the shotgun and carefully
prodded it with the barrel - many hunters have been killed
by wounded animals that appeared to be dead but weren’t.
In this case, the gorilla was dead. The body was too big
for him to move so he cut off a hand to take back and get
Read more about Ian's trip at www.gorilla.wildlifedirect.org
Redmond’s State of the Gorilla Journey was undertaken
as part of the CMS Year of the Gorilla, with support from
the UNEP Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP). Read more
about YoG at www.yog2009.org.