Scientists cheered by gorilla find in Congo, but say many primates still in grave danger

.EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) – Can there be more lurking in the mist? Despite a startling find announced Tuesday that doubled the estimated number of western lowland gorillas in central Africa, scientists warned that hundreds of primate species remain in danger of extinction.

A census by the Wildlife Conservation Society raised the estimate for gorillas in the Congo jungle from between 50,000 and 100,000 to around 200,000, substantially changing the picture of a great ape population thought devastated by the Ebola virus, hunting and deforestation.

While the news was well received, scientists gathered at the 22nd International Primatological Society Congress in Edinburgh warned against celebrating too soon.

“If verified, the discovery of these new populations of gorilla are hugely significant for our work as conservationists, but we must not be distracted from the very real and present danger these gorillas are in from man and Ebola,” said John Oates, emeritus professor of primatology at Hunter College in New York.

Oates said that while the news was good for the iconic great apes made famous by Dian Fossey in “Gorillas in the Mist,” many lesser known primates are in deepening peril.

A report released Tuesday by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and other groups warned that nearly half of the world’s 634 species and subspecies of primates are threatened with extinction due to human activity.