An estimated 125,000 Western lowland gorillas are living in a swamp in equatorial Africa, researchers reported Tuesday, double the number of the endangered primates thought to survive worldwide.
"It's pretty astonishing," Hugo Rainey, one of the researchers who conducted the survey for the U.S.-based Wildlife Conservation Society, told CNN Tuesday.
The last census on the species, carried out during the 1980s, estimated that there were only 100,000 of the gorillas left worldwide. Since then, the researchers estimated, the numbers had been cut in half.
WCS survey teams conducted the research in 2006 and 2007, traveling to the remote Lac Tele Community Reserve in northern Republic of Congo, a vast area of swamp forest.
Acting on a tip from hunters who indicated the presence of gorillas, Rainey said that the researchers trekked on foot through mud for three days to the outskirts of Lac Tele, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the nearest road.
Two thoughts on this:
1. Yay! Gorillas!
2. Was it really necessary to give out quite so much location detail?
Of course, the government knows and if the government knows some corrupt official knows, which means that poachers will know in pretty short order. In some ways, it's unfortunate that there's not much sporting interest in gorillas, and that their numbers aren't robust enough to support it: people will pay astounding amounts to shoot some critters, which is a fine source of conservation funds, and a great motivator for even corrupt or clumsy politicians to protect said beasties. Photo safaris are wonderful things, but nobody was ever damn fool enough to pay north of twenty grand plus six hundred bucks a day to the guide for the required number of days just to take a *picture* of a handsomely-maned lion.
That said, I would freaking *love* it if the first descriptors of the location that leaked were a carefully-designed trap. I rather enjoy the image of hordes of poachers eagerly descending on virgin territory only to find a surprising absence of gorillas and a downright *plethora* of heavily-armed Congolese soldiers with orders to, er, discourage anybody who shows up. Why, claymores could be a downright useful conservation tool!
(I've known guys who toted a gun for a living. The last time I heard from one, a couple of years ago, he was headed to Congo. Training people, he said. To do what? I said. To shoot poachers, he said. Cool, I said.)