The Eastern Gorilla, the largest living primate, has been listed as Critically Endangered due to illegal hunting according to the latest update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
The list was released at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii.
Four out of six great ape species are now Critically Endangered (only one step away from going extinct) with the remaining two also under considerable threat of extinction.
Of all the great ape species viz; the eastern gorilla, western gorilla, Bornean orangutan, Sumatran orangutan, chimpanzee and bonobo, only the chimpanzee and bonobo are not considered critically endangered. But they are listed as endangered.
The IUCN Red List update also reports the decline of the Plains Zebra due to illegal hunting, and the growing extinction threat to Hawaiian plants posed by invasive species.
Thirty eight of the 415 endemic Hawaiian plant species assessed for this update are listed as Extinct and four other species have been listed as Extinct in the Wild, meaning they only occur in cultivation.
The IUCN Red List now includes 82,954 species of which 23,928 are threatened with extinction.
“To see the eastern gorilla — one of our closest cousins — slide toward extinction is truly distressing,” Inger Andersen, IUCN director general, said in a statement. “Conservation action does work and we have increasing evidence of it. It is our responsibility to enhance our efforts to turn the tide and protect the future of our planet.”
The organisation said an estimated 5,000 eastern gorillas remain in the wild, a decline of about 70 percent over the past 20 years.
For the gorillas of the Congo, where the majority of the population lives, conservation will be a struggle because of political instability, said primatologist Russell Mittermeier, executive vice chairman of the Conservation International environmental group and chairman of IUCN’s primates specialist group.
The IUCN compiles its peer-reviewed Red List alongside partners such as universities and environmental groups within animals’ natural habitat.
It is the most comprehensive analysis of endangered species and guides government policy around the world, said Cristian Samper, president and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Other animals on the list fared better than the apes, including the giant panda, which was previously on the endangered list. It is now listed as “vulnerable” after conservation efforts helped protect its habitat.