Eastern gorillas nearing extinction

World’s Largest Gorillas One Step Away From Extinction, Pandas Rebound

Illegal hunting in the Democratic Republic of Congo has pushed the world’s largest gorillas to the point of near-extinction. Officials relayed this information on Sunday during the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s global conference in Honolulu.

Only 5,000 eastern gorillas remain on Earth and the incredible species faces the risk of completely disappearing due to the surge of illegal hunting. As the Associated French Press notes. four out of every six of the Earth’s great apes are at the point of critical endangerment, meaning they are “only one step away from going extinct.” Those listed include the eastern gorilla, western gorilla, Bornean orangutan, and the Samatran orangutan. These were all added to the IUCN’s Red List, which is the most informative and updated account of the world’s plant and animal species.

Inger Andersen, the director general of IUCN, spoke with reporters on the subject.

“Today is a sad day because the IUCN Red List shows we are wiping out some of our closest relatives.”

The IUCN’s update about the magnificent species states that “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.”

A subspecies of the eastern gorilla, known as the Grauer’s gorilla has declined in drastic measure since 1994, going from 16,900 to just 3,800 in 2015. Though hunting these beautiful creatures is against the law, it is hunting that is far and above the biggest threat to the gorillas. One eastern gorilla subspecies has actually seen a bit of a rebound in numbers. The mountain gorilla totals around 880.

A primatologist and chief conservative officer at the Wildlife Conservation Society, John Robinson, also states that the Rwandan genocide sparked a terrible set of happenings that impacted the gorillas.

“The genocide pushed a lot of people out of Rwanda, a lot of refugees into eastern DRC, who moved into areas which were relatively unoccupied by human beings. It was a situation that kind of unraveled. The people that moved into that part of DRC saw gorillas as a delicacy.”

Some people killed the gorillas for food, and additionally, human settlements and the activities of mining and productions of charcoal took over the habitat from the gorillas.

The current Red List by the IUCN includes 82,954 species of both plants and animals. The list is updated every four years and the most recent findings indicate that 23,928 of those species are threatened with extinction. Compared to earlier years, more species are under threat than ever before.

Mammal assessment coordinator at the Sapienza University of Rome, Carlo Rondinini, stated that almost 28 percent of mammals are threatened with extinction, which is three percentage points higher than in the last mammal assessment done in 2008.

Andersen continued to indicate what these statistics mean.

“A takeaway point we would like to emphasize is we are not journeying in the right direction with respect to species conservation. We are losing species at a faster pace than we have ever done.”

One species that was at risk to become extinct was the panda, yet these new statistics indicate that the species has now moved from the “endangered” label to “vulnerable.” However, other populations of mammals have been decreasing at a rapid pace due to illegal hunting, including the plains zebra. The zebra was pushed from the “least concern” label to “near-threatened.”

The act of illegal hunting and loss of habitats due to settlements and human activities has also pushed three separate species of antelope found in Africa to the listing of “near-threatened.” These species include Bay Duiker (Cephalophus dorsalis), White-bellied Duiker (Cephalophus leucogaster), and Yellow-backed Duiker (Cephalophus silvicultor).”

[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]