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Republic of Congo Declares New Park to Protect Gorillas

Feb 01, 2013 02:59 AM EST
Western Lowland gorilla
Western Lowland gorilla
(Photo : Reuters)

A core population of western lowland gorillas in the Republic of Congo will be protected through a new national park, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced Thursday.

The Republic of Congo government created the Ntokou-Pikounda National Park that covers an area of 1,765 square miles. The park has a remote swamp called "Green Abyss", which has a huge population of gorillas. The park currently houses 15,000 gorillas, 800 elephants and 950 chimpanzees, according to the WCS statement. 

"The Republic of Congo has shown the world its commitment to protect the largest population of gorillas on the planet," WCS president and CEO Cristián Samper said in the statement. "We commend the Congolese government for its leadership and foresight to set aside lands so that wildlife can flourish."

Gorillas are the largest of the primates and the closest relatives to chimpanzees and humans. The western lowland gorillas are one of the four subspecies of gorillas that include Mountain Gorillas (G. beringei beringei), Eastern Lowland Gorillas (G. beringei grauri) and Cross River Gorillas (G. gorilla diehli). Western lowland gorillas can be distinguished from their cousins by their smaller size, brown-gray coats and auburn chests.

The gorillas can be found in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) conservation group has classified the western lowland gorillas as "critically endangered". Deforestation, hunting for bushmeat and spread of the Ebola virus are the major threats faced by these gorillas.

The WWF report states that the population of the gorillas has declined by more than 60 percent in the last 20 to 25 years. In 2008, WCS carried out a census and discovered that there are 125,000 individual western lowland gorillas in the northern part of the Congo. 

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