Gorillas ‘one step’ from extinction
THE world’s largest gorillas have been pushed to the brink of extinction by a surge of illegal hunting in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and are now critically endangered.
With just 5000 Eastern gorillas left, the majestic species now faces the risk of disappearing completely, officials said at the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s global conference in Honolulu.
Four out of six of the Earth’s great apes are now critically endangered, “only one step away from going extinct”, including the Eastern Gorilla, the Western Gorilla, the Bornean Orangutan and the Sumatran Orangutan, said the IUCN in an update to its Red List, the world’s most comprehensive inventory of plant and animal species.
Chimpanzees and bonobos are listed as endangered.
“Today is a sad day because the IUCN Red List shows we are wiping out some of our closest relatives,” Inger Andersen, IUCN director general, told reporters.
War, hunting and loss of land to refugees in the past 20 years have led to a devastating population decline of more than 70 percent for the Eastern gorilla.
One of the two subspecies of Eastern Gorilla, known as Grauer’s Gorilla, has drastically declined since 1994 when there were 16,900 individuals, to just 3800 in 2015.
Even though killing these apes is against the law, hunting is their greatest threat, experts said.
The second subspecies of Eastern Gorilla – the Mountain Gorilla – has seen a small rebound in its numbers, and totals around 880 individuals.
The IUCN Red List includes 82,954 species – both plants and animals – and undergoes a major update every four years.
Almost one-third – 23,928 – are threatened with extinction, it said.
Compared with previous years, even more species are under threat.
Almost 28pc of mammals are threatened with extinction, three percentage points more than in the previous mammal assessment in 2008.
There was good news for pandas, whose status changed from “endangered” to “vulnerable” due to intensive conservation efforts by China.
The Tibetan Antelope has also improved, after protections helped it move from “endangered” to “near threatened” following a spate of commercial poaching for its valuable underfur, or shahtoosh.
Among plants, the Red List highlighted the growing extinction threat to Hawaiian plants posed by invasive species, including pigs, goats, rats, slugs and non-native plants.
Some 38 of the 415 Hawaiian plant species were listed as extinct and four other species now only occur in cultivation.
A full 87pc of native Hawaiian plants are threatened with extinction, it said. –