Minding the Mountain Gorillas
Though mountain gorillas are critically endangered, their numbers are up from nearly 25 years ago.
This week, the SciFri Book Club meets to talk about Gorillas in the Mist, Dian Fossey’s now-classic memoir of her time spent studying the mountain gorillas of central Africa. Fossey’s book, which was later made into a movie starring Sigourney Weaver, brought much attention to the plight of these apes, an endangered subspecies of gorilla whose population numbers fewer than 1,000 individuals.
So what’s become of the mountain gorillas since Fossey’s death in 1985? Annette Lanjouw, vice president for Strategic Initiatives and Great Ape Programs for the Arcus Foundation, says that the animals are actually doing better. Now, 880 gorillas live in two populations in central Africa—up from 620 in 1990, according to Lanjouw. “So in 23 years, we have had a significant increase,” she says, “In Fossey’s time there were even fewer.”
Lanjouw spent 15 years studying mountain gorillas in the field. She’s also co-author (with Gene Eckhart) of the book Mountain Gorillas: Biology, Conservation, and Coexistence, which these photos came from. Lanjouw joins us on the show this week to talk more about how Fossey changed primate research, and what’s changed since Fossey was working in the field.