Go­ril­las ‘one step’ from ex­tinc­tion

The Myanmar Times - - World -

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. –

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