Gorilla conservationists in Nigeria have a new ally–snails.
The critically endangered Cross River gorilla is under constant threat from poachers in this poor nation, as poachers kill the animals for their bushmeat or sell them illegally to traffickers in the exotic pet trade. With just 300 Cross River gorillas left, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) hopes to offer locals an alternate source of both food and revenue so they’ll leave the poor apes alone. Enter the snail.
For this conservation project, the WCS picked eight former gorilla poachers and got them to start farming African giant snails, a local delicacy. The WCS helped the poachers construct snail pens and stocked each pen with 230 giant snails, writes Scientific American. As the snails breed quickly, farmers can expect a harvest of 3,000 snails per year. Scientific American adds:
According to WCS, this should end up being a fairly profitable enterprise for local farmers. Annual costs are estimated at just $87 per farmer, with profits around $413 per year. The meat of one gorilla, says the WCS, would net a poacher around $70.
80beats: Bushmeat Debate: How Can We Save Gorillas Without Starving People?
80beats: New Threat to Primates Worldwide: Being “Eaten Into Extinction”
DISCOVER: Extinction–It’s What’s for Dinner
The forests of Africa can be a rough place to keep a family together. How do female gorillas keep everyone in line? They clap their hands!
A new study shows that adult female lowland gorillas clap their hands to attract the attention of adult silverbacks and infants. The researchers saw one infant stop playing upon hearing its mother’s clap, while the other adults stopped foraging. Four other mothers were observed clapping their hands twice in rapid succession when infants were present.
Given the recent death of best-selling author and sci-fi pioneer Michael Crichton, we thought it was the perfect time to reflect on some of his most innovative and fascinating ideas…that just happened to have come true.
5. Talking Gorillas: Congo (1980) was more than just another notch into the decent-book-cum-awful-movie belt. It also highlighted what was once a novel concept: that apes could use human language to communicate. Cute little Amy, with her sign language glove (which appeared in the movie but not the book), was loosely based on Koko the gorilla, whose actual linguistic abilities continue to be debated.
Since then, there’s been Kanzi, a bonobo who “apparently has learned more than 3,000 spoken English words and can produce (by means of lexigrams) novel English sentences and comprehend English sentences he has never heard before.” Granted, those who doubted before remain unconvinced.
4. Self-Replicating Robots: In Prey (2002), Crichton created a world of self-replicating nanorobots with rudimentary intelligence and predatory instincts, who spend several hundred pages running amok and causing all sorts of mayhem.
Today, researchers have developed robots that can physically self assemble, and even produce copies of themselves. Granted, getting to that next stage—manufacturing more of themselves from raw materials—is substantially harder.
3. Superbugs from Space: Crichton’s debut novel, The Andromeda Strain (1969), terrified readers with the ultimate biohazard: a deadly extraterrestrial microorganism that infects human blood and mutates like wildfire to defy containment.
Lucky for us, the chances of the next pandemic hurling in from space are slim to none. But the book brought the concept of bio-safety levels to far more advanced heights. As for the next great bug, not only have we created antibiotic-resistant superbugs here on Earth, we’ve also discovered that some strains become more virulent when sent into space. (Though fear not: They become far less deadly once they’ve made the journey home.)
You know those nice guys who just can’t seem to find a special someone? Meet Polo, a 36-year-old male who’s been unattached for the past eight years, ever since his mate died in 2000. Originally from Dublin, Ireland, he now lives in southern India—in a zoo. Polo is the only gorilla left in all of India. (Although in Spain, he’d practically be considered human, for legal purposes.)
Zookeepers say Polo is healthy, friendly, and bilingual (he understands both English and the local Kannada language), but extremely lonely. “The few joys he enjoys are bathing and searching for food that his keeper hides in blocks of ice or in bamboo to keep him energized,” says Vijay Ranjan Singh, the director of the zoo. Polo is a western lowland gorilla, an endangered species found in central Africa. In the wild, a handsome silverback like Polo would be leading a troop of up to 30 gorillas, most of them female.