With just 5,000 of these magnificent Eastern Gorillas (Gorilla beringei) left in the world, on Sunday, September 4, 2016, the members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), at a global conference in Honolulu downgraded the gorilla’s conservation status to “critically endangered.”
Of all the great apes, the Eastern Gorilla, Western Gorilla, Bornean Orangutan and Sumatran Orangutan are now listed as Critically Endangered, while the Chimpanzee and Bonobo are listed as Endangered, reports Fox News.
“To see the Eastern gorilla — one of our closest cousins — slide towards extinction is truly distressing,” says Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General, according to Phys.Org. “Today is a sad day because the IUCN Red List shows we are wiping out some of our closest relatives.”
The Eastern Gorilla is made up of two subspecies, Grauer’s Gorilla (G. b. graueri), and the Mountain Gorilla (G. b. beringei). The Mountain Gorilla lives on the volcanic slopes of Rwanda, Uganda and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and now number 880 individuals, a sure sign that conservation efforts are working.
The Grauer’s Gorilla (or eastern lowland gorilla), is found in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Grauer’s Gorilla has seen a sharp 70 percent decline in the last 20 years due to illegal hunting for bushmeat, deforestation and intensified forestry, with the population estimated to be only about 3,800 individuals.
The IUCN list includes 82,954 plant and animal species and is updated every four years. Almost one third of the species on the list, 23,928 are threatened with extinction.
“Illegal hunting and habitat loss are still major threats driving many mammal species towards extinction,” says Carlo Rondinini, Coordinator of the mammal assessment at the Sapienza University of Rome. And for the gorillas in the Congo, as long as political instability reigns, conservation will remain a struggle.