Surprising Number of Lowland Gorillas Discovered in Africa
LiveScience.com Tue Aug 5, 7:22 AM ET
A new tally of lowland gorillas has found massive and surprising numbers of these African
primates alive and well in the Republic of Congo, Wildlife Conservation Society scientists
The new census puts the number of western lowland gorillas (called great apes, along with
chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans) within two adjacent areas in the northern part of
the Congo at 125,000 individuals, including infant gorillas. The results were announced
today during a press conference at the International Primatological Society Congress in
Previous estimates from the 1980s placed the entire population of western lowland
gorillas, which live in seven Central African nations, at fewer than 100,000 individuals.
Sine then, scientists thought the number would've at least halved due to hunting and
Western lowland gorillas are one of four recognized gorilla sub-species, along with
mountain gorillas, eastern lowland gorillas and Cross River gorillas. While the eastern
lowland gorilla is considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of
Nature (IUCN), the others are labeled "critically endangered," which means the group faces
an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.
With partial funding from admission fees to the Bronx Zoo's Congo Gorilla Forest exhibit,
WCS researchers combed rainforests and isolated swamps to count gorilla "nests," which
gorillas construct out of leaves and branches each night for a sleeping area.
The researchers estimate 73,000 came from the Ntokou-Pikounda region and another
52,000 from the Ndoki-Likouala landscape, which includes a previously unknown
population of nearly 6,000 gorillas living in an isolated swamp.
"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 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."
The researchers attribute the high numbers to successful long-term conservation tactics
in the area; the remoteness and inaccessibility of the key gorilla hideouts; and a food-rich
"These figures show that northern Republic of Congo contains the mother lode of gorillas,"
said Steven E. Sanderson, WCS president and CEO. "It also shows that conservation in the
Republic of Congo is working."
For instance, WCS has worked with the Republic of Congo government in the northern area
of the country for nearly 20 years. There, the cooperative effort helped to establish the
Nouabale-Ndoki National Park and manage the Lac Tele Community Reserve, while
working with logging companies outside of protected areas to reduce illegal hunting.
- That is truly amazing, if factual.
In 2002, I experienced a western lowland gorilla encounter in La Lope
Reserve, Gabon. I'll never forget the female gorilla's screams of fear
while she slid down a very tall tree. At the same time, her near-by
mate (unseen through the thick forest) was roaring deeply and loudly
enough to practically shake the jungle floor.
Based on their extremely fearful reactions, I surmised that this couple
had prior experience with humans and, most likely, evidenced the
death/s of members of their family caused by hunters/poachers.
My reaction- gorillas and humans do not mix. Live and let live, s.v.p.