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World's Largest Gorilla Species May Face Extinction Soon

First Posted: Sep 09, 2016 08:40 AM EDT
Gorilla in Denmark
Gorillas in Denmark live freely in the wild and usually feed on fruits and leafy plants. Flickr/Thomas Widmann CC BY 2.0

The world's largest apes are now facing near extinction after 20 years of continuous decline in number, as stated by the leading conservation organization. Over the past two decades, the world's largest ape has become fewer than 4,000 by the number. Grauer's gorillas remain free in the wild, so conservationists warn people to refrain from hunting or petting the creature since it is at great risk of extinction.

Officials from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said that they are now raising the status of the Grauer's gorilla from "endangered" to "critically endangered" as of Sunday, September 4. This is the highest category given before the creature becomes extinct, as reported by Seeker.

According to Andre Plumptre, the lead author of the new listing, "Critically endangered status will raise the profile of this gorilla subspecies and bring attention to its plight." He added, "It has tended to be the neglected ape in Africa, despite being the largest ape in the world."

Gorilla beringei graueri, or the Grauer's gorillas are subspecies of the Eastern gorilla commonly found in fragmented forest habitats in the eastern part of the Domestic Republic of Congo. The creature feeds on fruit and plants and can grow as big as 5.5 feet tall weighing as heavy as 440 lbs.

The Wildlife Conservation Society and Fauna and Flora International created a report indicating a 77 percent drop in the population of Grauer's gorillas within one generation. The estimated number at the beginning of the study was 17,000 in 1995 to 3,800 today. The study blamed bushmeat hunting and civil war in the rapid decrease in a number of the apes.

With this suggestion, the eastern and western gorillas are now announced as critically endangered. Other subspecies of the mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) are also listed as critically endangered. But good news for mountain gorillas is that their number has been increasing. There are now 880 of them from about 300 back in 2008.

The IUCN's announcement on the new Red List of Threatened Species happened in the World Conservation Congress in Hawaii.

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