More than 125,000 western lowland gorillas have been discovered deep in the forests of the Republic of Congo, dramatically increasing the estimated population, primatologists said Tuesday.
For centuries the reclusive and endangered gorillas remained largely unrecorded, but a new census by the Wildlife Conservation Society, based at the Bronx Zoo in New York City, and the Republic of Congo counted the newly discovered populations in two areas of the northern part of the country covering 18,000 square miles.
Previous estimates put the number of western lowland gorillas at less than 100,000.
But those measures dated back to the 1980s, and the gorillas' numbers were believed to have fallen by at least 50 percent since then due to hunting and disease, researchers said. The 125,000 newly discovered gorilla population now puts their estimated numbers at between 175,000 to 225,000.
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The discovery was announced as primatologists in Edinburgh, Scotland warned that nearly half of the world's 634 types of primates are in danger of becoming extinct due to human activity. That figure, carried in a comprehensive review of the planet's apes, monkeys and lemurs, included primate species and subspecies.
Scientists meeting at the International Primatological Society Congress in Edinburgh said they hoped the report will help spur action to defend mankind's nearest relatives.
Primatologists warned that species from the giant mountain gorillas of central Africa to the tiny mouse lemurs of Madagascar are on the “Red List” for threatened species maintained by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.