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North Carolina Zoo Saving Wild Gorillas and Celebrating the first World Gorilla Day

Posted on 09/21/17
North Carolina Zoo Saving Wild Gorillas and Celebrating the first World Gorilla Day

ASHEBORO, NC - Join the North Carolina Zoo in celebrating the first ever World Gorilla Day on September 24.  World Gorilla Day creates the opportunity for people all over the world to come together in celebrating the gorilla and more importantly, taking action to protect gorillas in the wild. 

Since 2007, the North Carolina Zoo has worked to save the rare Cross River gorilla in Nigeria. Inhabiting the rugged highlands on the Nigeria-Cameroon border, the Cross River gorilla is one of the most critically endangered primates in the world.  The survival of these gorillas is threatened by both hunting and habitat loss: only about 300 Cross River gorillas remain. These rare gorillas are found only in very remote and mountainous forests, where hunters are reluctant to go and where steep slopes prevent farming.

Dr. Rich Bergl, Director of Conservation, Education, and Science at the North Carolina Zoo, in partnership with New York’s Wildlife Conservation Society, has been employing a range of cutting-edge technologies and approaches to conserve these unique animals. Dr. Bergl has developed, and trained park rangers how to use a data collection system based on rugged tablets to better track illegal activities and the movements of the gorillas. This system allows those working on the front-lines of conservation to rapidly acquire, analyze and act on information critical for preventing poaching, the biggest threat to the survival of the gorillas. 

The North Carolina Zoo is also conducting research on the threat posed by the disease to the gorilla. Working with Emory University, the Zoo tests for disease agents in gorillas, human and livestock populations to see if diseases may be transmitted to the gorillas. The results of this study will also benefit the people who live in communities near the gorillas’ habitat by providing them with medical screening that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.  

One of the main threats to the gorillas is the loss of habitat.  The North Carolina Zoo is working with the Aeronautical Engineering Department at North Carolina State University to develop a drone for monitoring habitat loss. When completed, this drone will be able to fly over the forests where the gorillas live to help identify when trees are being cut down so that rangers can go in and stop the destruction of forests.

Dr. Rich Bergl said “I am proud to be part of the North Carolina Zoo’s efforts to save species in the wild. Our work with gorillas in Africa and around the world is helping to secure the future of wildlife and wild places.” 

The inaugural year for World Gorilla Day also marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Karisoke Research Center, operated by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International in Rwanda.  Established by the late Dian Fossey, Karisoke is the longest running gorilla field study site dedicated to the conservation, protection, and study of gorillas and their habitats in Africa.  

Gorillas are in dire need of help.  A visit to the North Carolina Zoo supports the Zoo’s efforts to save endangered species from extinction.  Guests are invited to attend daily gorilla feedings at 11:30 a.m. and keeper talks at 11:45 a.m. Guests can take action by recycling old electronics or by posting on social media at #worldgorilladay.  

About the North Carolina Zoo 

At the North Carolina Zoo, we celebrate nature. As the world’s largest natural habitat zoo, we inspire a lifelong curiosity about animals for the hundreds of thousands of people who visit our Zoo each year. Our dedicated team of experts provide exceptional, compassionate care for the more than 1,600 animals and 52,000 plants that call our park home. We also lead efforts locally and globally to protect wildlife and wild places because we believe nature’s diversity is critical for our collective future. The North Carolina Zoo invites all of our guests to witness the majesty of the wild in the heart of North Carolina and welcome everyone to join in our mission to protect nature’s diversity. Visit NCZoo.org to begin your life-changing journey. 

About the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources 

The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state’s natural and cultural resources to build the social, cultural, educational and economic future of North Carolina. NCDNCR's mission is to improve the quality of life in our state by creating opportunities to experience excellence in the arts, history, libraries and nature in North Carolina by stimulating learning, inspiring creativity, preserving the state’s history, conserving the state’s natural heritage, encouraging recreation and cultural tourism, and promoting economic development. 

NCDNCR includes 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, two science museums, three aquariums and Jennette’s Pier, 39 state parks and recreation areas, the N.C.  Zoo, the nation's first state-supported Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, State Preservation Office and the Office of State Archaeology, along with the Division of Land and Water Stewardship. For more information, please call (919) 807-7300 or visit www.ncdcr.gov.

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