- Date: February 27, 2009
WWF’s Richard Carroll appeared live on the Today Show on March 1st. This follows the release of the recent gorilla census findings showing that mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park are thriving despite major conflict in the region and the park itself.
Welcome to the Congo Basin
Deep in the heart of the African continent, the tropical forests of the Congo Basin are a haven for forest elephants, gorillas and other amazing wildlife.
The Congo Basin holds up to one-quarter of the world’s tropical forests. These forests regulate local climate and the flow of water, protect and enrich soils, control diseases and safeguard water quality. They also make up one of the most important wilderness areas left on Earth.
Did You Know?
- The mountain gorilla has longer hair, jaws and teeth than the lowland subspecies, but slightly shorter arms.
- Adult males grow a patch of silver hair on their back and hips, which has earned them the name 'silverback'.
- Mountain gorillas are generally larger than other subspecies. On average, adult males weigh 352 lbs., and adult females 216 lbs.
Managing Director, Congo Basin, Namibia, Madagascar programs
“Glimpsing a gorilla through the green veil of the jungle, catching its eye and sensing the species connection made me realize that if we humans cannot protect our nearest relatives, then we have failed as a species.”
“People call me the Silverback Gorilla because of my rough gray beard, my thick gray locks and because I run with apes for a living. I am the managing director of Congo Basin, Namibia and Madagascar, for WWF, and the task before us is as monumental as the cause is urgent: In the Congo, if current deforestation trends persist, 70 percent of the region’s forests could be lost by 2040. During my years in the jungle, I had several near-death experiences from staph infection, malaria, dengue fever, charging elephants and a mislabeled bottle of embalming fluid that I mistook for water. I’m now pre-embalmed, so I may live forever.
“I grew up on a small farm in rural Connecticut, with a naturalist for a mom. After finishing my undergraduate studies in marine biology, I joined the Peace Corps. I wound up in the Central African Republic; I lived in small villages, learned the local languages and culture, taught fish-farming, then went into the wild to follow rhinos and elephants. I still shudder at the memory of getting chased by lions while riding a 175 Yamaha on an elephant trail.
“With gorillas, you have to do everything you can not to run. I don’t care who you are: If you try to make a mad dash, they’ll pursue you like linebackers, take a bite out of your backside and scamper off with a rump roast. The only way to ward off a gorilla is to stand your ground, divert your eyes so as not to stare and act like a monkey—which comes somewhat easy for me! Gorillas are smart, funny, beautiful creatures. Glimpsing a gorilla through the green veil of the jungle, catching its eye and sensing the species connection made me realize that if we humans cannot protect our nearest relatives, then we have failed as a species.
“In the early 1980s, I walked more than 1,000 miles in the jungle, studying gorillas and other wildlife. The main primates active in the forests were loggers, slicing and dicing their way through the gorilla habitat. I persuaded the Central African Republic to outlaw hunting, with an allowance for the indigenous people using traditional spears and nets. In 1990, the area was declared a national park and reserve. Even better, 90 percent of the revenues from tourists in the park go to local communities. They now realize that the wildlife is more valuable alive than dead.