The largest primate on Earth – the eastern gorilla – is now critically endangered thanks to human hunting.
We’ve moved one step closer to killing off our closest evolutionary relatives, with four of the six great ape species given the new conservation status. ‘Critically endangered’ is just one step away from extinction.
The new ‘red list’ of threatened species was officially announced by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) after the ape population suffered more than a 77 per cent population collapse over the last 20 years.
Although wildlife tourism has recently been credited with helping their numbers start to recover, mountain gorillas have been critically endangered for two decades with only about 300 mature individuals left.
But while the news is shocking, it’s not entirely surprising. Of more than 82,000 species assessed by the IUCN, nearly 30 per cent are facing that fate – almost entirely because of the actions of humans.
Inger Andersen, the IUCN’s director-general, said:
To see the eastern gorilla – one of our closest cousins – slide towards extinction is truly distressing.
We live in a time of tremendous change and each IUCN Red List update makes us realise just how quickly the global extinction crisis is escalating.
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.
Geologists are currently considering reclassifying the Earth’s present geological era as the Anthropocene – a name given to the extent of our impact on the planet – due to what some scientists are already calling the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth, The Independent reports.
If the scientists are correct, the extinction would be comparable to the disappearance of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.
Dr Andrew Plumptre, of the Wildlife Conservation Society, told The Independent:
If the current situation persists, we are going to lose them and we could lose them in as soon a time period as 10 to 15 years. It’s the largest ape on the planet. It would be very sad if that happened and the world wasn’t willing to move and to do more to try and stop it.
This is devastating news.