For years the news out of the Congo has been devastatingly grim. Over six million people have died in a variety of wars taking place especially in the eastern part of that troubled nation. At last we can report some good news. A new National Park was opened on December 28th which hopefully will provide protection to over 15,000 Western Lowland Gorilla's. These magnificent animals have been on the critically endangered list.
The New York Times Reports:
"The locals said it could not be done. It was 1999, and the hardheaded ecologist J. Michael Fay was determined to tromp across 2,000 miles of the Congo Basin. In a northeastern patch, he ran into a swampy tangle so thick that he struggled to advance by a single mile in under 12 hours.
“He later said it was one of the most difficult things he had ever attempted in his life,” said Paul Telfer, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Congo program. When Dr. Fay, also a staff member at the conservation society, emerged from his journey 455 days later, he referred to that wild forested place as “the green abyss.”
Now the government of the Republic of Congo has declared the area a national park, ensuring that the green abyss remains just that. Gorillas, it turns out, do not mind the forests’ tangle.
In 2008, the Wildlife Conservation Society discovered that an estimated 15,000 western lowland gorillas were living there, which helped spur the government to make a decision to protect the forest. “The density of gorillas in this area turned out to be surprisingly high,” Dr. Telfer said. “As big as gorillas are, it’s surprising how nimble they are in these dense understories — it’s their preferred habitat.”
With this new population taken into account, the northern Republic of Congo now supports an estimated 125,000 gorillas.
After several years of study, consultation and dialogue among various governmental bodies, a 1,765 square-mile patch of land became Ntokou-Pikounda National Park. “We celebrate and acknowledge the efforts of the Congolese government to protect this extraordinary ecosystem,” said Cristián Samper, the president and chief executive of the Wildlife Conservation Society. “There are three national parks established in this region now, so we’re really looking at a major piece of the Congo rain forest being preserved and managed in a sustainable way.”
"In addition to protecting gorillas, the park shelters the great apes’ forest neighbors, including around 800 elephants and 940 chimpanzees. “This park is a great victory not just for gorillas but for conservation,” said Jerome Mokoko, the associate director of the Congo program. “What should not be overlooked is that this park supports wetlands with huge numbers of fish, crocodiles and Congo’s largest and most secure population of hippos.”
Ntokou-Pikounda National Park’s relative inhospitality to humans helps to protect wildlife dwelling by deterring poachers or at least making poaching more challenging. But pressures on great apes remain high on the forest’s eastern border, where some communities reportedly have a preference for gorilla meat. "