The world’s largest gorillas have been pushed to the brink of extinction by a surge of illegal hunting in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and are now critically endangered.
With just 5,000 Eastern gorillas left on Earth, the majestic species now faces the risk of disappearing completely.
Four out of six of the Earth’s great apes are now critically endangered, “only one step away from going extinct,” including the Eastern Gorilla, Western Gorilla, Bornean Orangutan and Sumatran Orangutan.
Chimpanzees and bonobos are listed as endangered.
War, hunting and loss of land to refugees in the past 20 years have led to a “devastating population decline of more than 70 per cent,” for the Eastern gorilla.
One of the two subspecies of Eastern gorilla, known as Grauer’s gorilla, has drastically declined since 1994 when there were 16,900 individuals, to just 3,800 in 2015.
Even though killing these apes is against the law, hunting is their greatest threat.
The second subspecies of Eastern gorilla — the Mountain gorilla — has seen a small rebound in its numbers, and totals around 880 individuals.
There was good news for pandas, whose status improved from “endangered” to “vulnerable” due to intensive conservation efforts by China.
The Tibetan Antelope has also improved, after protections helped it move from “endangered” to “near threatened” following a spate of commercial poaching for its valuable underfur, or shahtoosh, which is used to make shawls.
The IUCN Red List update includes 82,954 species — including both plants and animals.
Almost one third — 23,928 — are threatened with extinction.