ROYAL OAK (WWJ) -"When you think about only 2,000 animals being left....we have far more people at the zoo on a cold day than there are Grauer's gorillas left in the wild," said Detroit Zoological Society executive director Ron Kagan.
The DZS has partnered with GRACE, a gorilla rescue and rehabilitation center in the Congo, to help conserve Grauer's gorillas, the most endangered ape in the world.
In the last 20 years, more than half of the Grauer's gorilla population has been wiped out, and it's possible that as few as 2,000 of these animals remain in the wild today. As part of the effort to conserve the species, the orphaned gorillas being cared for at GRACE are also learning skills for eventual reintroduction into their natural habitat.
"The goal here is not to take them out of the wild, but to save them in the wild," Kagan said.
GRACE is located on 370 acres in a remote, forested area of central Africa. It is currently home to 14 orphaned Grauer's gorillas between the ages of 3 and 12 years old. Grauer's gorillas, also known as eastern lowland gorillas, are closely related to humans, according to the DZS. They are also highly endangered due to the widespread habitat destruction, poaching and threats associated with the rapidly growing human population within their habitat caused by civil war and unrest in the region.
How is the DZS involved?
"The villagers are getting additional education and we are among several partners that are all very directly helping there," said Kagan. "We'll be sending out veterinary staff, we'll be sending our education staff, we're already sending some financial support, we're helping to build a road there so that the villagers can get in and out and help protect the gorillas."
The director of GRACE, Dr. Sonya M. Kahlenberg, will be speaking Monday at 6 p.m. at the Ford Education Center at the Detroit Zoo. The presentation – titled "Bringing Hope to Orphaned Gorillas and Local Communities in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo" – is open to the public. Tickets are $20, with all proceeds benefiting GRACE.
Tickets can be purchased at www.detroitzoo.org or at the door. Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
For more about GRACE, visit www.gracegorillas.org.
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