We recently highlighted the plight of orangutans. Following years of failed conservation measures, all orangutans are now listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The Sumatran orangutan had been listed as critically endangered for nearly two decades, but the Bornean orangutan was a recent addition. According to the IUCN, all orangutans have an “extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.”
But the story doesn’t end there. The Eastern Gorilla – the largest living primate species – has now also been listed as critically endangered on the IUCN’s recently-released updated Red List of Endangered Species. This means that four of the six non-human great ape species – which now includes the Eastern gorilla, Western gorilla, Sumatran orangutan, and Bornean orangutan – are listed as critically endangered, and essentially on the doorstep of extinction. The other two non-human great ape species – the chimpanzee and bonobo – are currently listed as endangered.
Over the past 20 years, the population of Eastern gorillas has declined more than 70%. It’s estimated that there are fewer than 5,000 Eastern gorillas remaining, with illegal hunting and habitat destruction primarily blamed for the species’ devastating decline. Eastern gorillas are found in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
While the future is grim, extinction is not a foregone conclusion. Scientists hope this new designation will bring more awareness to and focus more attention on the plight of Eastern gorillas. In the words of Jane Goodall, the famous primatologist, “Apathy is unacceptable.”
Humans are the only species of great ape not currently threatened with extinction. To learn ways in which you can help save this and other endangered species, visit the World Wildlife Fund.
Photo, posted January 1, 2016, courtesy of Rod Waddington via Flickr.