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.
Mountain gorilla population up by over 20 percent in five years
(11/13/2012) A mountain gorilla census in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has a population that continues to rise, hitting 400 animals. The new census in Bwindi means the total population of mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) has reached 880—up from 720 in 2007—and marking a growth of about 4 percent per year.
(10/03/2012) Two satellite images by NASA, one from February 13, 1999 and the other from September 1, 2008 (see below), show that Virunga National Park is under assault from deforestation. Located in the eastern edge of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) the park has been assailed by entrenched conflict between rebels and government forces, as well as slash-and-burn farming, the charcoal trade, and a booming human population.
(10/02/2012) A baby western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) was born recently at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust’s (DWCT) to mother, Hlala Kahilli and first-time father, Badongo.
(10/01/2012) The British government has come out in opposition against oil drilling plans by UK-based, SOCO International, in Virunga National Park, reports Reuters. The first national park established on the continent, Virunga is home to one of only two populations of mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) in the world. In March of this year, two oil exploratory permits came to light granting SOCO seismic testing inside the park by the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
(10/01/2012) Cross River gorillas and eastern gorillas lost more than half their habitat since the early 1990s due to deforestation, logging, and other human activities, finds a comprehensive new assessment across great apes’ range in West and Central Africa.