Grauer’s gorilla, formerly known as the eastern lowland gorilla, are the largest great ape in the world and they are now listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s “red list” of threatened species.
This makes four of the six great ape species only one step away from extinction. Only the chimpanzee and bonobo are not considered critically endangered. But they are listed as endangered.
“To see the eastern gorilla — one of our closest cousins — slide toward extinction is truly distressing,” Inger Andersen, IUCN director general, said in a statement. “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.”
The organization said an estimated 3,800 eastern gorillas remain in the wild, a decline of about 70 percent over the past 20 years.
The Eastern lowland Gorilla is a subspecies of eastern gorilla endemic to the mountainous forests of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The gorillas eat a diet that’s rich in herbs, leaves, bark, lianas and vines, along with seasonal fruit, bamboo and insects.
Humans are largely to blame for the animals’ decline: Poaching, habitat loss, and civil unrest are three of the main threats the gorillas face, along with disease and climate change.
“There are no simple solutions right now, other than a much greater investment in on-the-ground protection until the region stabilizes, at which time major ecotourism, as is happening in the neighboring countries of Uganda and Rwanda, can take place,” said primatologist Russell Mittermeier, executive vice chairman of the Conservation International environmental group and chairman of IUCN’s primates specialist group.