Houston Zoo president and CEO, Lee Ehmke welcomed staff and board members from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund to the Zoo recently. Fossey Fund president, CEO, and chief scientific officer, Dr. Tara Stoinski thanked the Zoo for ensuring the survival of gorillas through extraordinary generosity and for the Zoo’s substantial ongoing commitment to save mountain gorillas. The Zoo’s support helps protect forests in the Democratic Republic of Congo for critically endangered Grauer’s gorillas, expand food security programs for vulnerable people living near gorillas, and provide scholarships for conservation staff in Africa. “All of these Houston Zoo-supported activities are critical for gorilla conservation to succeed in the long term,” Stoinski explained.
When Dian Fossey first arrived in Rwanda in 1967, an estimated 240 mountain gorillas remained. Poaching was so bad she feared they would be extinct by the year 2000. But because of the work she started – and the Zoo helps continue today – the mountain gorilla population has grown to over 1,000 individuals. They are the only great apes with a growing population. Dr. Stoinski attributes this success to direct, daily protection. “It is the result of decades of on-the-ground protection by supportive partner organizations, like Houston Zoo, and hundreds of dedicated individuals, some of whom have lost their lives protecting gorillas.”
Fossey Fund special guests were thrilled seeing the gorillas in our care and they took particular pride in knowing Houston Zoo is helping save gorillas in the wild. “No animal better exemplifies Houston Zoo’s ‘See Them. Save Them.’ motto than gorillas,” said Ben Jones, the Zoo’s vice president of conservation and education. “Dr. Fossey described her work as ‘active conservation’ and that term suits us perfectly. Houston Zoo staff, members, volunteers, and guests’ support fuels daily anti-poaching patrols, snare removal, and habitat protection to save gorillas in Africa. What happens here, matters there.”
Dian Fossey dedicated her life to saving gorillas and in her last journal entry she wrote, “When you realize the value of life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate more on preservation of the future.” The Houston Zoo is honored to help continue her legacy today and secure a future for gorillas for generations to come.