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Friday, May 29, 2015

See gorillas, save gorillas

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor

Since the passing of our gorilla grand matriarch, Nina, last week, we’ve heard from so many of you who remember her sweet presence—whether it was from one memorable visit that stuck with you or a lifetime of visits that added up to a special place in your heart for the notable dame.

Nina, photo by Mat Hayward/Woodland Park Zoo.

We want you to know that those visits truly matter. Not just for the time you spend building a powerful connection with nature, but for the positive impact you make—perhaps without even realizing it—for wildlife across the world. That’s because every visit to Woodland Park Zoo helps support our local and international conservation efforts, like those helping to protect endangered western lowland gorillas—just like Nina—in the wild.

Blackback Costa, submerged and feeding on mineral rich aquatic plants in a stream in the Mbeli Bai clearing, northern Congo. Photo by Kelly Greenway

For 15 years, Woodland Park Zoo’s Partners for Wildlife conservation program has supported the Mbeli Bai Study in the Republic of Congo where researchers are gathering essential data about the elusive western lowland gorilla to shape conservation strategies for this critically endangered species.

Gorilla Winona with twins at Mbeli Bai. Photo courtesy of Mbeli Bai Study.

From Mbeli Bai Study:

“Mbeli Bai is a 13-hectare large swampy forest clearing in the NouabalĂ©-Ndoki National Park (NNNP) in the north of the Republic of Congo, with minimum levels of disturbance. Since 1995, the Mbeli Bai Study (MBS) has provided unique insights into the social organization and behavior of the elusive western gorilla. These findings have attracted significant international media attention while the continuous monitoring of individuals (over 430 gorillas) provides essential baseline life history data of this critically endangered flagship species. Other species such as forest elephants, sitatungas and buffaloes are also monitored.
“The Mbeli Bai Study (MBS) was established with the goal of providing the much needed information on the population dynamics and demography of western gorillas. Long-term studies are essential because gorillas are long-lived mammals. The data collected enables scientists to assess the vulnerability of populations to threats and predict their ability to recover from decline, and therefore formulate effective conservation strategies.
“The MBS aims to continue to enhance our knowledge of western gorillas and ensure the long-term protection of gorillas and other large mammals in and around the NNNP, through applied research, capacity building of Congolese assistants, [and raising] awareness both locally (through our education project “Club Ebobo”) and internationally. 
“Additionally the permanent presence of researchers provides direct habitat protection in the south-west of the NNNP, which was a major elephant poaching area before the 90s. Since the initiation of the MBS, poaching levels at the study site have fallen to zero.”
Club Ebobo educators and children of the local school in Bomassa. Photo courtesy of Mbeli Bai Study.

On your next visit to Woodland Park Zoo, you can express your conservation passions by casting your vote at one of our Quarters for Conservation kiosks. As you enter the zoo, you'll receive a token that represents 25 cents of your admission fee (or a percentage of your membership), which you can contribute toward the conservation project of your choice. Members, you can also pick up a token at Guest Services, the membership office, or either ZooStore.

Photo by Sarah Lovrien/Woodland Park Zoo.

Your contributions to gorilla conservation through Quarters for Conservation have already totaled over $20,000. The project options change seasonally, so be sure to cast your vote next time—and every time—you visit to join us in our mission to save wildlife and wild places.

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