(Western Lowland Gorilla; Credit: Purdue University)

Gorillas are among the world's most endangered animals, but the Wildlife Conservation Society has reported rare good news about these large primates: A population of western lowland gorillas, described as "dense and healthy" by the WCS, has been found in Cameroon's Deng Deng National Park.


Perhaps most surprising is the fact that these gorillas are living near a logging operation. About 300 to 500 gorillas divide their time between the park and the logging area. A road exists between these two places, however, which puts the gorillas in danger of poachers.

“Protecting this gorilla population and guaranteeing its future absolutely requires protecting the gorillas in the logging concession as well as in the park,” James Deutsch, WCS Director for Africa Programs, said in today's announcement.

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He and his colleagues made that determination after conducting a census of gorillas in the region. To do this, the researchers counted ape nests along line transects. Part of that effort involves analyzing dung samples in the nests. You can see researcher Ambahe Ruffin Dupplex doing that in the below photo. (Credit: Wildlife Conservation Society)

Ape conservation efforts appear to be working, as the density of gorillas found in Deng Deng nearly equals that for Gabon's Lopé National Park and Congo's Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park.

Deng Deng National Park was created in just 2010. One of many reasons for its creation was to protect the gorillas from deadly Ebola epidemics that have wiped out other great ape populations in Central Africa. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List now classifies gorillas as being "critically endangered," mentioning the disease threats, along with problems related to hunting, habitat loss, habitat degradation due to human activities (from agriculture, timber extraction, mining) and possibly climate change.

Deng Deng therefore provides a rare haven for gorillas and other animals to thrive. Chimpanzees, elephants, buffaloes and a reddish-brown antelope known as the bongo also occur in this protected area.

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Roger Fotso, director of WCS’s Cameroon Program, concluded: “For a small area, this is an extremely important site for gorilla conservation. It is also important because this is the northern-most population of western lowland gorillas, and because it is accessible to the capital Yaoundé and so a possible future site for tourism.”

The WCS credits the Cameroon Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife and the French Development Agency for their work over the past three years to help protect gorillas.

In the below video segment from the television series "Life," you can see western lowland gorillas at a site in the Congo Basin.