Last Chance To See… Gorillas

Item via the Beeb:

Gorillas head race to extinction
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

Gorillas, orangutans, and corals are among the plants and animals which are sliding closer to extinction.

The Red List of Threatened Species for 2007 names habitat loss, hunting and climate change among the causes.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has identified more than 16,000 species threatened with extinction, while prospects have brightened for only one.

The IUCN says there is a lack of political will to tackle the global erosion of nature.

Governments have pledged to stem the loss of species by 2010; but it does not appear to be happening.

“This year’s Red List shows that the invaluable efforts made so far to protect species are not enough,” said the organisation’s director-general, Julia Marton-Lefevre.

“The rate of biodiversity loss is increasing, and we need to act now to significantly reduce it and stave off this global extinction crisis.”

One in three amphibians, one in four mammals, one in eight birds and 70% of plants so far assessed are believed to be at risk of extinction, with human alteration of their habitat the single biggest cause.

Critical list

The tone of this year’s Red List is depressingly familiar. Of 41,415 species assessed, 16,306 are threatened with extinction to a greater or lesser degree.

The main changes from previous assessments include some of the natural world’s iconic animals, such as the western lowland gorilla, which moves from the Endangered to the Critically Endangered category.

Numbers have declined by more than 60% over the last 20-25 years.

Forest clearance has allowed hunters access to previously inaccessible areas; and the Ebola virus has followed, wiping out one-third of the total gorilla population in protected areas, and up to 95% in some regions.

Ebola has moved through the western lowland gorilla’s rangelands in western central Africa from the southwest to the northeast. If it continues its march, it will reach all the remaining populations within a decade.

The Sumatran orangutan was already Critically Endangered before this assessment, with numbers having fallen by 80% in the last 75 years.

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