Celebrating 20 Years of Partnership in Saving Gorillas
Collaboration between Zoo Atlanta and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International continues to benefit Africa’s only increasing non-human great ape population
ATLANTA – Dec. 15, 2015 – Zoo Atlanta and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International celebrate 20 years of partnership for gorillas and the wild places they inhabit, providing a leading example of the power of collaboration between zoos and other conservation organizations.
“Zoo Atlanta is very proud to celebrate such a milestone anniversary for such a vital shared cause. For 20 years, each of our two organizations has benefited invaluably from the other’s insights, knowledge and observations, but the ones who have benefited the most are the gorillas,” said Raymond B. King, President and CEO of Zoo Atlanta. “Because of this partnership, we now know that conservation of wildlife doesn’t have to be a story of gloom and doom, but a story of hope and perseverance.”
Zoo Atlanta became the international headquarters of the Fossey Fund in 1995 under the leadership of Clare Richardson, then Executive Vice President of Zoo Atlanta, and Terry Maple, Ph.D., then the Zoo’s President and CEO. Since that time, the Zoo has supported the organization by providing office space; human resources, information technology and financial support; and funding for scientific staff.
Building on the work begun in 1967 by the late Dian Fossey, the Fossey Fund’s efforts have resulted in an increase in numbers of mountain gorillas in Rwanda – the only non-human great ape population in the world currently on the rise – and has recently initiated targeted efforts to protect the Grauer’s gorilla in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition to its international headquarters at Zoo Atlanta, the organization also employs around 140 staff based in the field in Africa.
“The partnership with Zoo Atlanta has enabled the Fossey Fund to focus most of its resources on protecting and studying wild gorillas in Africa, which has ultimately resulted in a doubling of the mountain gorilla population,” said Tara Stoinski, Ph.D., who until her 2014 appointment as the Fossey Fund’s CEO held a dual position as Director of Primate Research for Zoo Atlanta and Chief Scientist and Vice President for the Fossey Fund. “We are incredibly grateful for this long-term support and partnership.”
Zoo Atlanta is home to one of the nation’s largest collections of gorillas, with 20 individuals living in distinct social groups. Gorillas are among the Zoo’s longest-term commitments, beginning with the arrival of the legendary late Willie B. in 1961, and the landmark Ford African Rain Forest is a flagship destination for guests. In 2011, the 50th anniversary of the Zoo’s gorilla program, Zoo Atlanta was honored with the distinguished Edward H. Bean Award for Significant Achievement from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in recognition of its commitment. Research published by Zoo staff has influenced industry-wide improvements to the care of gorillas in zoos, as well as enhanced understanding of the apes’ biology, with more than 100 papers on maternal care, reproduction, social behavior and cognition. The Zoo is also the headquarters of the Great Ape Heart Project, the world’s first effort to understand, diagnose, and treat cardiac disease across all four great ape taxa: gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos.
The four subspecies of gorilla include the critically endangered western lowland gorilla, represented at Zoo Atlanta; the critically endangered Cross River gorilla; the critically endangered mountain gorilla; and the endangered Grauer’s gorilla. With the remarkable exception of the mountain gorilla, each of these populations is rapidly declining as a result of poaching, habitat loss and the bushmeat trade.
Visit zooatlanta.org to learn more about gorillas at Zoo Atlanta. For more information on the Fossey Fund, visit gorillafund.org.
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About Zoo Atlanta
Viewed as one of the finest zoological institutions in the U.S. and a proud accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Zoo Atlanta has a mission to inspire value and preservation of wildlife through a unique mix of education and outdoor family experiences. From well-known native wildlife to critically endangered species on the brink of extinction, the Zoo offers memorable close encounters with nearly 1,400 animals from around the world. The Zoo’s newest destination, Scaly Slimy Spectacular: The Amphibian and Reptile Experience, featuring more than 70 species in a 111,000 square-foot complex, opened in April 2015. Zoo collection highlights include Mei Lun and Mei Huan, the only giant panda twins in the U.S.; North America’s largest zoological collection of great apes; and a global center of excellence for the care and study of reptiles and amphibians. Up-close-and-personal animal experiences include behind-the-scenes Wild Encounters with African elephants, giant pandas, lemurs and Aldabra giant tortoises. Zoo Atlanta is open daily with the exceptions of Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Keeper talks, interactive wildlife shows, education programs and special events run year-round. For more information, visit zooatlanta.org or call 404.624.WILD.