60-Second Science

Gorillas Galore in Congo

A new census finds many more western lowland gorillas in the Republic of Congo than had been thought. Steve Mirsky reports

[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

Some good news for, and about, primates. Scientists now think there are a lot more gorillas out there than they used to think. A new Wildlife Conservation Society census released on August 5th finds that there are more than 125,000 western lowland gorillas spread out over two northern areas of the Republic of Congo. Western lowland gorillas are found in seven Central African countries. Nineteen-eighties estimates put the population at only about 100,000. And researchers thought that number was down to about 50,000 because of hunting for meat, as well as disease—the dreaded Ebola virus kills gorillas as well as people. But the new census shows a much more thriving population.  

Factors that have helped gorillas include the remoteness of some of the habitat, which also offered plenty of food, and the successful long-term management of the country’s protected areas. Researchers arrived at the updated numbers by combing rainforests and swamps to count so-called nests. Gorillas construct nests out of foliage every night to sack out. Which answers the age-old question about where an 800-pound gorilla sleeps.

—Steve Mirsky

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