mountain-gorilla

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Dian Fossey’s 82nd Birthday 

The leading authority of endangered gorillas would have turned 82 today (Jan 16) if it wasn’t for her untimely death in 1985. Dian Fossey worked in the tangled slopes of Rwanda studying mountain gorillas and developing a habituating process which was never done before. Louis Leakey sent her to the Congo in 1966 and began her conservation work by 1967 in Rwanda. She was the closest researcher to the gorillas than ever before. Her research camp was 9,000 feet up Mount Visoke and was her home and battleground for almost twenty years. She fought bravely for the lives of the mountain gorillas and put their safety and health before hers. She is an inspiration to all and to those who help save endangered animal lives.

Read her articles “The Imperiled Mountain Gorilla published in April 1981 and Making Friends With Mountain Gorillas published in January 1970.

Mountain Gorilla, Congo

Photograph by Michael Nichols

Of the many threats facing the endangered mountain gorilla, habitat loss is one of the most pressing. Trees in the Virunga range are often cut down for charcoal production. Here, a young mountain gorilla takes in the view from a tree branch in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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Our own Dr, Oliver Ryder captured rare footage of wild baby gorillas playing in Rwanda. A cute reminder of the appeal of this endangered species and the importance of protecting them. (WARNING: Cute overload)

RWANDA, SABYINYO : A baby mountain Gorilla, member of the Agashya family, is pictured in the Sabyinyo Mountains of Rwanda on December 27, 2014. Rwanda, well known for mountain gorillas – an endangered species found only in the border areas between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – and hosted more than a million visitors between 2006-13, generating from the national parks alone $75m (£44m) in tourism revenue in that time; 85% of this is from trekkers who come to see some of the country’s 500 gorillas. AFP PHOTO / Ivan LIEMAN

The more we learn about the emotions shared by all mammals, the more we must rethink our own human intelligence
by Stephen T Asma 

“If he grabs you, just go limp and let him throw you around. If you tense up, he’ll take it as a dominance challenge.’

‘Um. Okay.’

My brothers and I looked at each other. This was last-minute advice. We were clinging at a 45-degree angle to the Mount Bisoke volcano, having hacked and crawled for three hours through stinging nettles. We started out in Rwanda; now we were in the Congo. Of course we weren’t supposed to be there, but mountain gorillas don’t respect national borders. With our machete-wielding guides, we had found the gorilla group called ‘Amahoro’, Kinyarwanda for ‘peace’. I just hoped they were in a peaceful mood today.

Before coming to Africa, I had just finished writing a review of America’s two new mother-ship museum exhibits: the Koch Hall of Human Origins at the Smithsonian in Washington DC, and the Spitzer Hall of Human Origins at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Like every other presentation of our prehistory, these otherwise excellent exhibits focused on the evolution of our big neo-cortical brains — the adaptive significance of tool use, linguistic ability, increasing cultural sophistication. I guess it seems natural to celebrate the development of our unique cognitive abilities, since these distinguish us from our mammal relations.

Out in the bush, however, I began to appreciate how biased this cognitive picture really is. We owe a debt to our big neo-cortices, but our survival owes much more to the emotional skills that were under construction in mammals long before the Homo sapiens cortex explosion. We share a rich emotional life with our animal brethren because emotions helped us all survive in a hostile world. Indeed, the more we understand what mammals have in common, the more we have to rethink everything about even our specifically human intelligence.”

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