Gorilla paradise: new park safeguards 15,000 western lowland gorillas

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
January 31, 2013



The newly created Ntokou-Pikounda National Park spans some 4,572 square kilometers (1,765 square miles) and will safeguard western lowland gorillas as well as elephants and chimpanzees. Photo credit: Thomas Breuer/Wildlife Conservation Society-Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
The newly created Ntokou-Pikounda National Park spans some 4,572 square kilometers (1,765 square miles) and will safeguard western lowland gorillas as well as elephants and chimpanzees. Photo credit: Thomas Breuer/Wildlife Conservation Society-Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

In 2008 the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced a jaw-dropping discovery: remote swamp forests in northern Republic of Congo contained a stunning population of 125,000 western lowland gorillas that had somehow gone unnoticed by scientists. At the time the President of WCS, Steven E. Sanderson, called the area the "mother lode of gorillas," and expressed hope that the discovery would lead to a new park. Well, late last year, a park was finalized.

The new Ntokou-Pikounda National Park houses an estimated 950 chimpanzees, 800 elephants, and some 15,000 lowland western gorillas, a core population of the gorilla bonanza uncovered five years ago.

"The creation of this new protected area is part of our policy of conservation and sustainable management of the most representative ecosystems in the country," said Claude Massimba, the director of Wildlife and Protected Areas for the Republic of Congo. Although the nation still suffers from high poverty rates and low development, it has managed to set aside over 11 percent of its land in protected areas.

The western lowland gorilla—a subspecies of the western gorilla—is currently listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List. The massive apes remain hugely imperiled by deforestation, poaching for bushmeat, and disease, although the discovery of 125,000 individuals by WCS effectively doubled the known global population overnight.

"This new park is wonderful news for gorillas and for conservation in Central Africa," said John Robinson, WCS Executive Vice President for Conservation and Science.













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CITATION:
Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (January 31, 2013).

Gorilla paradise: new park safeguards 15,000 western lowland gorillas.

http://news.mongabay.com/2013/0131-hance-gorilla-park.html