Running with gorillas
Beatrice Newbery and Ian Player
9th June, 2000
If trends continue the world’s great apes are doomed to extinction. But one unique rehabilitation project in West Africa is challenging this bleak picture. Beatrice Newbery reports
The gorillas of West Africa are on the edge. For them, the E-word looms, from which there is no return: extinction. And the world knows it. Conservationists and scientists are scrabbling to protect whatever they can of their habitats and to put remnant scraps into zoos and gene banks, in preparation for the day when they are finally no more in the wild. All seem to agree that the future looks bleak.
Yet in rural Kent, and in Gabon, can be found some cause for hope. For in these two places, worlds apart in almost every way, a unique conservation project is doing what no other has ever done – breeding gorillas in captivity, and releasing them back into their natural habitat. In the worldwide battle for the great apes, then, there is at least one light shining in the growing darkness.
Marco would like to be the leader but when he struts around, looking hopefully behind him, nobody follows. Instead, Choupette is in favour at the moment. She’s the oldest. She even has a minder, Tonga, who keeps an eye out for her. Occasionally Tonga leaves Choupette to hang out with the girls, Sophie and Lekette, leaving Marco to bully the less-confident newcomer, Kwam, left isolated...
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