Africa has a mystique. It is awe-inspiring, a living place yet dark and formidable. We can never know Africa. It is full of cultures and heritage, wildlife and wild places.
But, Deepest Darkest Africa is in danger. There is a Congolese proverb which says you do not teach the paths of the forest to an old gorilla. But what if those paths are gone forever? How will the gorilla find its way? And worse, what if the old gorillas have gone away, lost to humans? Who will show the young the paths of the forest?
In the Republic of Congo, the Houston Zoo is working with the Mbeli Bai Gorilla Program in the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park. Mbeli Bai is the only long-term demographic study on western gorillas which uses direct observations to provide important baseline information on the social organization, demography and behavior of an intact population of gorillas. Detailed studies are also undertaken on the activity of other large mammal species using the bai, such as forest elephants, sitatungas, forest buffaloes as well as otters and many other species.
At Mbeli Bai more than 350 gorillas have been monitored since 1995. The results of the monitoring of individual identifiable animals at Mbeli Bai has provided major and unique insights into the social organization and behavior of this elusive species and has reported many spectacular behavioral observations such as twin births, silverback splash displays, and the first observation of tool use in free-ranging gorillas; findings that have attracted significant international media attention.
Often quoted, 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson wrote for if one link in nature’s chain might be lost, another might be lost, until the whole of things will vanish by piecemeal. What he noted then holds true for environments across the world today. If we have the opportunity to protect and hold dear this chain; wildlife, habitat and human communities, then we must take that opportunity and act while the old gorilla can still teach the young, his forest path.
For more information, please go to: http://www.houstonzoo.org/gorilla-study/
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