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Feb. 22, 2013

Minding the Mountain Gorillas

by Annette Heist

Click to enlarge images
Click on icon in upper right corner of slideshow to enlarge images.
 
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 the photos in the slideshow above 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.
About Annette Heist

Annette Heist is a former senior producer for Science Friday.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.
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