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Massive gorilla population discovered in the Congo

Photos of massive gorilla population discovered in the Congo

Massive gorilla population discovered in the Congo
August 5, 2008

The world’s known population of critically endangered western lowland gorillas has more than doubled following a new census that revealed some 125,000 in the Republic of Congo.

The survey, conducted across conducted in an area of 18,000 square miles of rainforests and swamps by the Wildlife Conservation Society and local researchers, offers new hope for one of the world’s most charismatic endangered species.

“These figures show that northern Republic of Congo contains the mother lode of gorillas,” said Dr. Steven E. Sanderson, President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society. “It also shows that conservation in the Republic of Congo is working. This discovery should be a rallying cry for the world that we can protect other vulnerable and endangered species, whether they be gorillas in Africa, tigers in India, or lemurs in Madagascar.”

Western lowland gorillas. Photos by Thomas Breuer/Wildlife Conservation Society.

Counting nests built each night by gorillas, the researchers estimated a total of 125,000 gorillas in two adjacent areas of northern Congo, including 70,000 in the Ntokou-Pikounda region, 52,000 in the Ndoki-Likouala, and 6,000 in an isolated Raphia swamp. Population densities reached as high as eight individuals per square kilometer in one area ̬ one of the highest gorilla densities ever recorded.

“We knew from our own observations that there were a lot of gorillas out there, but we had no idea there were so many,” said Dr. Emma Stokes, who led the survey efforts in Ndoki-Likouala. “We hope that the results of this survey will allow us to work with the Congolese government to establish and protect the new Ntokou-Pikounda protected area.”

“We hope that these results will speed up the classification of the Ntokou-Pikounda zone into a protected area,” added Claude Etienne Massimba of the Government of Republic of Congo’s Department of Wildlife and Protected Areas.

While many of the gorillas live outside protected areas, the remoteness of the region has sheltered them from the threats that gorillas face elsewhere, including habitat loss and poaching. The ebola virus also has killed large numbers of the apes. PRevious estimates for western lowland gorillas put their population at less than 100,00 worldwide.

Western lowland gorillas are one of four recognized gorilla sub-species, including mountain gorillas, eastern lowland gorillas, and Cross River gorillas. All are classified as “critically endangered” on the IUCN Red List, except eastern lowland gorillas, which are endangered.

WCS is working to protect all four subspecies.

The census data were released at a press conference at the International Primatological Society Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland. Yesterday an update from the IUCN showed that 48 percent of the world’s 634 kinds of primates are threatened with extinction.

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