Celebrating gorillas in Atlanta, really?
Yes, really. Today, Atlanta city councilperson Carla Smith proclaimed December 4th as Gorilla Appreciation Day in the city of Atlanta and urged all Atlantans to “support conservation and environmental causes.”
But why Atlanta?
For the past 25 years, the city has been home to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, which has helped shape one of the world’s rare conservation success stories from its headquarters at Zoo Atlanta. Founded in 1967, it is the world’s longest-running and largest organization dedicated entirely to gorilla conservation. And it’s the only international conservation organization based in Atlanta.
Mountain gorillas, which the Fossey Fund studies and protects, are one of the few species coming back from the brink of extinction. Along with their cousins, the critically endangered Grauer’s gorillas, these “gorillas in the mist” are found only in a small swath of land in Africa’s Congo Basin. That might seem far away, but their survival is critically important to our own.
The Congo Basin is Earth’s second largest tropical rainforest, and the Fossey Fund’s work to protect gorillas extends to the protection of this diverse forest habitat, which is critical to our planet’s health. “The gorillas’ rainforest acts as the ‘lungs’ of our planet,” says Dr. Tara Stoinski, the Fossey Fund’s CEO and chief scientific officer. “It slows the rate of climate change and protects humans all across the globe—even right here in our city.”
This Silver(back) anniversary in the City of Atlanta celebrates the strength of Atlanta’s scientific and conservation communities. The Fossey Fund partners with Zoo Atlanta on environmental initiatives, has collaborative relationships with universities such as Georgia Tech and Emory, and over the years has had the support of many Atlantans including Ted Turner and Andrew Young.
Stoinski, a long-time Atlantan and graduate of Georgia Tech, says, “As an organization, we’ve spent five decades changing the future for gorillas, and we’ve been in Atlanta for almost half this time—a quarter of a century! It’s been such an honor to spend these years working with Atlantans to ensure the survival of this iconic species.”