125,000 Gorillas discovered in Congo
Researchers reported today that they have discovered 125,000 western lowland gorillas in the Republic of Congo, putting the estimated world population at between 175,000 and 225,000. Exact population figures are difficult to determine because the animals are extremely reclusive and shy, making it difficult to count them individually. Population estimates are worked out by counting the sleeping "nests" that the gorillas make.
The Wildlife Conservation Society, based at New York's Bronx Zoo, and the Republic of Congo said their census counted the newly discovered gorillas in two areas of the northern part of the country covering 18,000 square miles.
"This is a very significant discovery because of the terrible decline in population of these magnificent creatures to Ebola and bush meat," said Emma Stokes, one of the research team.
Craig Stanford, professor of anthropology and biology at the University of Southern California, said he is aware of the new study.
"If these new census results are confirmed, they are incredibly important and exciting, the kind of good news we rarely find in the conservation of highly endangered animals."
He added that independent confirmation will be valuable because nest counts vary depending on the specific census method used.
Western lowland gorillas are one of four gorilla subspecies, which also include mountain gorillas, eastern lowland gorillas and Cross River gorillas. All are labeled either endangered or critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
While calling the new census important, Stokes said it does not mean gorilla numbers in the wild are now safe.