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INTERVIEW

“If we can protect the gorilla, we can protect the forest”

Dr. Melanie Stiassny

Curator of Fishes at the American Museum of Natural History in New York

I study fish, and the Congo River is the richest place for fishes in all of Africa; and I study a particular part – the lower Congo from Pool Malebo down to the Atlantic Ocean where rapids have generated the most extraordinary species diversity. Down here, in this part of Congo, there have never been gorillas, and certainly never will be gorillas, but the fish, in a very strange way, totally depend on the gorillas, because the fish depend on the forest … Whatever happens on land ultimately ends up in the river, and then it ends up going out to sea. So there is this great chain of connection between the great forests of central Africa, where the gorillas live, and the rivers of Africa, and ul-

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timately the coasts and the inshore marine life of Africa where the inshore marine fishery is so important for feeding the peo- ple. You are going to lose that too. So for me, the gorilla, apart from being just the most gorgeous, wonderful animal and our very close relative, is, if you like, protecting the forest. If we can protect the gorilla, we can protect the forest. If we protect the forest, we can protect the rivers. If we protect the rivers, we can protect the fish. And if we protect all of that, we protect the people. So it’s all kind of wound in together and as an ichthy- ologist, I totally support saving the gorillas, for the fish, for the people, for everything.

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