(CNN) — 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.
This is the same WCS that helped count polar bears to list them as threatened…
WCS scientists studied 28 years of satellite images of sea ice and contributed key data to a study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) that helped inform the USFWS decision. The USGS study says that polar bears traveling from retreating sea ice will soon have to go five times farther to reach maternity dens in Alaska, and that sea ice will no longer support polar bears in Alaska by the year 2050. Of further concern is that additional USGS data shows that models by the International Panel on Climate Change were too conservative, and sea ice could retreat at a rate 30 percent faster than originally predicted.
“The polar bear is the poster child of climate change and we need to do all we can to protect this species from the effects of global warming,” says Sanderson. “These preliminary results clearly show that Alaska’s polar bear population is particularly vulnerable to climate change and deserving of greater federal protection.”
Maybe a visit to the Arctic to actually count the polar bears should be in order.