While conservation efforts to reverse the decline of the giant panda population has been rewarded with positive results, the eastern gorilla has not faired so well, with its status on the IUCN Red List being elevated to Critically Endangered.
The eastern gorilla’s population has dropped by more than 70 per cent over the past 20 years, and now has an estimated population of less than 5,000.
“To see the Eastern gorilla – one of our closest cousins – slide towards extinction is truly distressing,” said Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General.
Joining the eastern gorilla on the Critically Endangered list are three other species of great ape: the western gorilla, Bornean orangutan and the Sumatran orangutan, which are all just one step away from facing extinction.
The two remaining members of the great ape family – the chimpanzee and the bonobo – are listed as Endangered.
For all the great ape species, illegal hunting and habitat loss pose a substantial threat to their survival.
Facing similar threats, the plains zebra was also found to have suffered a substantial population decline, elevating them from Least Concern to Near Threatened.
But while findings on certain species were troubling, there were some victories to celebrate, highlighting the success of conservation.
The giant panda is a key success story, moving down the list from Endangered to Vulnerable thanks to conservation efforts that have increased their population by protecting their habitat from deforestation, and expanding it by reforestation.
Other successes included the Tibetan antelope, which has moved down the list from Endangered to Near Threatened, while two animals endemic to Australia – the greater stick-nest rat and the bridled nailtail wallaby – both moved from Endangered to Vulnerable.
The IUCN Red List currently includes 82.954 species, of which 23,928 are threatened with extinction. Over the next five years, the IUCN and its partners will commit more than $10 million toward a strategy that aims to double the number of species assessed on the list.