After lingering on the edge of extinction, a successful conservation effort means mountain gorillas are no longer Critically Endangered.
The mountain gorilla are one of two subspecies of eastern gorilla. They are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda, which are popular poaching areas.
The population faced a drop in numbers due to poaching as well as other factors such as human-introduced diseases like Ebola.
In 2008 the mountain gorilla’s numbers were worryingly low, with just an estimated 680 mountain gorillas left on Earth. They were classified as Critically Endangered.
Today, however, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have said they are updating the status of mountain gorillas from Critically Endangered to Endangered.
The change comes after the numbers of wild mountain gorillas has risen to more than 1,000 thanks to successful conservation efforts, which included enforcing anti-poaching patrols and in-situ veterinary interventions, such as the removal of snares.
Brilliantly, the current population of mountain gorillas is the highest figure ever recorded for the subspecies.
Despite the number of gorillas moving in the right direction, the IUCN has put emphasis on the fact the animals are still Endangered; conservation efforts will need to continue.
Dr Liz Williamson, of the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group, spoke of some of the ways the increase can be maintained, saying:
Whilst it is fantastic news that Mountain Gorillas are increasing in number, this subspecies is still Endangered and therefore conservation action must continue.
Coordinated efforts through a regional action plan and fully implementing IUCN Best Practice guidelines for great ape tourism and disease prevention, which recommend limiting numbers of tourists and preventing any close contact with humans, are critical to ensuring a future for the Mountain Gorilla.
Let’s hope the world keeps welcoming lots of baby mountain gorillas!
The fin whale and gray whale also received upgrades from the IUCN, with the Fin moved from Endangered to Vulnerable, while the gray whale joined the mountain gorilla in moving from Critically Endangered to Endangered.
Randall Reeves, Chair of the IUCN SSC Cetacean Specialist Group, explained:
Fin Whales and Western Gray Whales were severely depleted by hunting, and it is a relief to finally see their populations on the rise.
These whales are recovering largely thanks to bans on commercial hunting, international agreements and various protection measures.
Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General, said of the conservation efforts:
These conservation successes are proof that the ambitious, collaborative efforts of governments, business and civil society could turn back the tide of species loss.
Unfortunately, the latest update also underlines how threats to biodiversity continue to undermine some of society’s most important goals, including food security.
We urgently need to see effective conservation action strengthened and sustained. The ongoing UN biodiversity summit in Egypt provides a valuable opportunity for decisive action to protect the diversity of life on our planet.
The news was released along with the IUCN’s newly updated Red List of Threatened Species, which revealed more than 26,500 species are now threatened with extinction.
Every effort made to conserve wildlife and the environment is a positive step towards preventing the extinction of the various species.
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