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Photo: newborn mountain gorilla born in Congo

Photo: newborn mountain gorilla born in Congo

Photo: newborn mountain gorilla born in Congo
August 23, 2007

Conservationists announced the birth of a critically endangered mountain gorilla in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park. The newborn marked a positive development for the embattled apes in the park — nine out of its 100 gorillas have been killed this year by poachers, including five last month.

WildlifeDirect called the birth “a key step toward the survival of this critically endangered species.”

The baby gorilla, a male, was born to the only female in the Munyaga Family, according to WildlifeDirect.

The newborn gorilla is expected to spend its first few months of life in constant physical contact with its mother, usually riding on its mother’s back or being carried. Infant gorillas begin to walk at around four or five months and start to feed on plant parts at four to six months.

Photos courtesy of WildlifeDirect.

The gorillas live in Virunga National Park park, which sits near the border with Rwanda and supports roughly 380 of the world’s remaining 700 mountain gorillas. Another 320 mountain gorillas are found in neighboring Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.

Mountain gorillas are generally well-protected relative to the more common lowland gorillas in other parts of Africa. As such, the July killings of five mountain gorillas sparked international outrage and led the U.N. to send a team of investigators to the region which is recovering from a decade of war. Rangers believe illegal charcoal harvesters from Goma are to blame.

Conservationists say gorillas can bring benefits to the local economy. In Uganda’s Bwindi, well-trained guides lead small and carefully supervised groups of tourists who pay more than $300 each for a permit to see the gorillas. The efforts have provided some compensation for communities around the park who have had to give up their right to cut timber and harvest game from the protected forest.

WildlifeDirect, founded and chaired by renowned conservationist Dr Richard Leakey, promotes wildlife protection through blogs by rangers and conservationists. The WildlifeDirect website allows visitors to donate money directly to conservation efforts in the wild.

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