Good-News Gorillas

. . . But the news on the primate front is not all grim. Yesterday I blogged on a new analysis of the world’s apes and monkeys, which found that 48 percent of species and subspecies face a real risk of extinction. But this morning brings word that one species is doing better than anyone dreamed: an estimated 125,000 more western lowland gorillas, which are classified as critically endangered (the most serious conservation status), have been discovered in two remote areas in the northern part of the Republic of Congo.

Conservation biologists used to think that there are perhaps 110,000 western lowland gorillas, which live in seven countries of equatorial Africa. But when scientists with the Wildlife Conservation Society (best known for running the Bronx Zoo) combed an area of 18,000 square miles of rainforest and isolated swamps in the Republic of Congo and counted gorilla "nests," they reported at the International Primatological Society Congress in Edinburgh, they came up with a population estimate that essentially doubles the known population of western lowland gorillas. (Gorillas construct nests each night from leaves and branches for sleeping.) In some patches of forest, there were eight gorillas per square kilometer, one of the highest densities ever recorded.