NC Zoo Receives National Award for Saving Gorillas in the Wild
This Cross River gorilla in Africa is being protected through a conservation program at the North Carolina Zoo.
Photo courtesy of N.C. Zoo staff
If you’ve lived in North Carolina long enough, you know that many of our scientists and researchers focus on preserving biodiversity and protecting rare, threatened and endangered species. From the Duke Lemur Center in Durham to Conservators Center in Burlington and Bayer CropScience’s North American Bee Care Center in Research Triangle Park, conservation is at the top of agendas. So it’s no surprise that the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro recently received a national award for its collaborative work to conserve critically endangered Cross River gorillas.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums awarded its 2015 Significant Achievement in International Conservation Award to the zoo and New York’s Wildlife Conservation Society for their exceptional efforts toward regional habitat preservation, species restoration and support of biodiversity in the wild. Only 250-300 Cross River gorillas remain in the world. Since 2008, the zoo’s conservation team has worked with the Wildlife Conservation Society to help protect those in Africa by preventing poaching and habitat destruction.
“The long-term collaboration between our zoo and the WCS is an excellent example of how zoos can work together to save species from extinction,” says Pat Simmons, director of the Zoo. “By bringing together a broad range of expertise and resources, our partnership has helped to preserve not only Cross River gorillas, but also the many other plant and animal species that share their forest home.”
Cross River gorillas are only found in a small area in Nigeria and Cameroon, and are threatened by bushmeat hunting, conversion of forest for agriculture and logging. To protect the gorillas, the zoo and WCS have implemented a mobile, computer-based monitoring system across their range to assess both threats and the impact of law enforcement activities. This system, along with a program of anti-poaching patrols, field surveys and community outreach, has allowed conservation teams with both organizations to quantitatively measure threat, protection and biological data relevant for gorilla and wildlife conservation.
This data show that the project has been able to reduce threats and keep wildlife populations stable, according to a zoo new release. The project is one of many that the zoo is involved with to save wildlife from extinction, both here in North Carolina and around the world.
If you haven't yet been to the North Carolina Zoo, check it out. It's a short, pleasant drive from the Triangle and a perfect day trip. The gorillas are among my favorite animals to watch. Take a virtual tour of what you can see here.
Updated Oct. 7, 2015, to list the correct name of the Conservators Center in Burlington.