Surprising but good news was reported this week by the Wildlife Conservation Society, based in New York City. A new census of western lowland gorillas in Africa reveals that many more of them exist than had been estimated previously.
More than 125,000 of the animals - one of four subspecies of gorillas - live in the Republic of Congo's rainforests, the WCS reported. The total population of western lowland gorillas may be as many as 225,000.
Wildlife experts had worried that the western lowland gorilla's numbers had been slashed by as much as 50 percent during the 1980s, because of disease and hunting. The new census is cause for celebration among those who worry that gorillas might be on their way to extinction within a few decades.
But the good news needs to be balanced with the bad. Other subspecies of gorillas remain severely endangered. For example, fewer than 800 mountain gorillas are believed to be living in the wild in Uganda, Rwanda and the Republic of the Congo.
While human activity - including illegal hunting - remains a severe threat to the gorillas, disease plays a role, too. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Ebola - the "Hot Zone" disease of a book and film a few years back - is a serious threat to gorillas as well as humans. "Ebola can wipe out thousands (of gorillas) in a short period of time," an IUCN spokeswoman told a reporter.
Primates - including gorillas and scores of other species - are humankind's closest relatives in the animal kingdom. While this week's news about one subspecies is good, the need for watchful, sometimes intensive, conservation efforts remains high.