Aug 5 2008 7:19pm

They Were Behind That Rock. All 125,000 of Them

No, it only looks like a gorilla. Move along, nothing to see here.Scientists find a honkin' huge stash of western lowland gorillas, and wouldn't you know, they were in the last place they looked:

A grueling survey of vast tracts of forest and swamp in the northern Congo Republic has revealed the presence of more than 125,000 western lowland gorillas, a rare example of abundance in a world of rapidly vanishing primate populations.

As recently as last year, this subspecies of the world’s largest primate was listed as critically endangered by international wildlife organizations because known populations — estimated at less than 100,000 in the 1980s — had been devastated by hunting and outbreaks of Ebola virus. The three other subspecies are either critically endangered or endangered.

The survey was conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society and local researchers in largely unstudied terrain, including a swampy region nicknamed the “green abyss” by the first biologists to cross it. Dr. Steven E. Sanderson, the president of the society, marveled at the scope of what the survey revealed. “The message from our community is so often one of despair,” he said. “While we don’t want to relax our concern, it’s just great to discover that these animals are doing well.”

What does it say that my first reaction to reading this story about finding over a hundred thousand gorillas was "For God's sake, why did you tell people where they are?" Because now I have images of entire battalions of hunters trekking down to this swamp to shoot these poor animals, and, I don't know, turn their bones into aphrodisiacs or some other such quackery, or otherwise say "now that you've found so many of them, I should be able to shoot one in the head. You know, to preserve the balance of nature." The balance of nature here being defined as "the number of these creatures that exist in the world, minus the one I want to shoot in the head."

Why yes, indeed, I am cynical about the fundamental nature of man, thank you very much (not all men, just the ones who really like to kill things purely for fun). And while I'm certain that now we've discovered these gorillas, a high priority now is to keep this population healthy and thriving, there's a not small part of me that believes, against all rationality, that the scientists here should have looked at each other and said, "Wow, this is a hell of a lot of gorillas, living here peacefully in this swamp. Now let's walk right out of here and never speak of this again."

(Photo by Kabir Bakie, taken from here, and licensed through Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5)

Chris Eagle
1. Chris Eagle
According to CNN (via Boing Boing), it was hunters who tipped the scientists off in the first place.
David Keck
2. dkeck
I am happy to live in a world where a reporter may say things like: "This is the highest-known density of gorillas that's ever been found."

I've never thought in terms of gorilla density before. Is there a unit of measurement here? (With a metric alternative, perhaps?)

Yours, clapping and chuckling like Herman Munster,

Pablo Defendini
3. pablodefendini
Gorillas per square meter, or 'g/m2', perhaps?
Pronounced 'gimp', when parsed as pseudo 1337?
"We're lookin' at oh, about 300 Gimps here, Billyjoe. We'd better haul out the heavy mortar shells. It's gonna be a long afternoon."
Pablo Defendini
4. pablodefendini
Damn, I just realized that 300 gorillas per square meter makes for a very crowded swamp.
I FAIL at spatial visualizations...
Chris Eagle
5. harmfulguy
Somebody must have shut down the invisible force field in an attempt to turn the entire human race into gorillas. Again.
David Keck
6. dkeck
It strikes me that

a) Gorillas need protection
b) The CIA has a long history of arming Gorillas
c) I am willing to write the upshot for those Scifi channel boys any day. (...Gorillas that we Missed... Gorillas Never Miss. Gorilla! Something like that).

Oh yeah. It's that or middle school.

Jeffrey Richard
7. neutronjockey
Green Abyss
...an Eco-thriller by John Scalzi.

"Scalzi makes Ebola look like a puny chimp." -Richard Preston, The Hot Zone

"I even $%&@ my pants. Scalzi's the man." -Vin Diesel.

"Scalzi gives more Gorilla per inch than any other man." - Pablo Defendini (@pablo, you asked for it man you were calculating gimp!)
JS Bangs
8. jaspax
On the bright side, the remoteness of this area might mean that it's hard for hunters to get there.
Pablo Defendini
9. pablodefendini
@neutronjockey- yikes!
My first blurb! *sniff!
eihter way, roflmao
Chris Eagle
10. Skip
I believe that you're allowed to do that as long as you yell "It's coming right for us!" first.
Jeff Hentosz
11. Hentosz
Possibly they spilled about the gorillas to deflect attention from the brachiosauruses?
Bruce Cohen
12. SpeakerToManagers
pablodefendini @ 4

I now have an image of gorillas dancing with angels on the heads of pins burned into my brain. Done in the style of Escher's Angels and Devils, of course.

dkeck @ 6

Sadly, the US Constitution only allows them to arm bears.
David Keck
13. dkeck
But Speaker... Surely, the Constitution of the Untied States lives to be interpreted in such a way that monkeys get guns?

Bruce Cohen
14. SpeakerToManagers
dkeck @ 13

Chimps, maybe, but I think monkeys are forbidden under the decision in Scopes v. Tennesse.
Chris Eagle
15. Sacul the desrever
McGorilla burgers are TASTY! Would you like fingers with that? Why yes, they are boneless for your dining enjoyment. Would you like to try our dipping sauces?
Super BadGirl
16. superBadGirl
Whatever your reaction says about you, it says the same about me. This was on NPR when my alarm went off this morning, and even my sleep-fogged brain's first thought was "wonder how long before we start killing them."

I do like the thought of arming them, however. Think of all the fun hearings we could have 10 years down the line.

"To the best of my recollection, sir, we did not arm the gorillas. Well, it was not our intention to arm gorillas. There was a slight miscommunication there. You need to remember we were in the midst of the Great Logic Depression at the time."
Ken Walton
17. carandol
Does this mean that there's a chance that *all* the endangered species are just hiding?
Chris Eagle
18. b. lynch black
"What does it say that my first reaction to reading this story about finding over a hundred thousand gorillas was "For God's sake, why did you tell people where they are?"

this has always been my first reaction whenever i read news stories about discovering new creatures (the world's smallest snake, the furry lobster)... and even more so when i hear about something like an entire population of gorillas. am i cynical? yes, i am. i have no faith in mankind's ability to see a rounded ecological system in which every creature has its place, and he isn't the "head of the food chain" with "dominion over the earth."

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