Red List: Bad news for apes, better for pandas

A female gorilla with her son, Eastern Lowland Gorillas (gorilla beringei graueri).
A female gorilla with her son, Eastern Lowland Gorillas (gorilla beringei graueri).
The population of Eastern Gorillas have declined 70% in two decades.

The largest living primate, the Eastern Gorilla, has been listed as Critically Endangered due to illegal hunting, with the population declining by 70% in the last two decades.

There are now less than 5000 of the Eastern Gorilla population left, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The eastern gorilla is one of four great apes now listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN’s Red List of threatened species, along with the Western Gorilla, Bornean Orangutan and the Sumatran Orangutan.

“To see the Eastern Gorilla – one of our closest cousins – slide towards extinction is truly distressing,” said Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General. “We live in a time of tremendous change and each IUCN Red List update makes us realise how quickly the global extinction crisis is escalating.”

Other alarming trends include the declining population of the Plains Zebra, hunted for both bush meat and skins, which has declined by 24% in the past 14 years from around 660,000 to a current estimate of just over 500,000. The populations of three species of antelope found in Africa have also shown marked declines, and have moved from Least Concern to Near Threatened.

However, the IUCN’s Red List wasn’t all bad news. The giant panda has improved from Endangered to Vulnerable, largely thanks to the efforts of the Chinese government to protect forests.

“This reclassification recognises decades of successful conservation efforts led by the Chinese government and demonstrates that investment in the conservation of iconic species does pay off – and benefits our society as well as species,” said Lo Sze Ping, chief executive of the China office of WWF.


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