Eastern Gorillas are on the Verge of Extinction While Pandas Lose their Endangered Status

September 6, 2016 | Erica Tennenhouse

Photo credit: Joe McKenna/Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)

Updates to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Things are looking up for giant pandas. The iconic species has been downgraded from ‘Endangered’ to ‘Vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species in their latest update.

Last year, Mongabay reported that the wild giant panda population totalled 1,864 individuals, up by 268 from the previous estimate in 2008. The rise is attributed to the establishment of a network of giant panda reserves across China, along with efforts by the government to protect their habitat.

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“The recovery of the panda shows that when science, political will and engagement of local communities come together, we can save wildlife and also improve biodiversity,” said Marco Lambertini, World Wildlife Fund Director General, in a news release.

While pandas are retreating from the brink of extinction, Eastern gorillas are inching closer to the edge.

The IUCN has now listed the species — the world’s largest living primate — as ‘Critically Endangered.’ Their increase in threatened status comes after two decades of illegal hunting in Africa has slashed the Eastern gorilla population by more than 70 percent, bringing it to fewer than 6,000 individuals today.

Other great apes — the western gorilla, Bornean orangutan and Sumatran orang-utan — currently share the status of ‘Critically Endangered,’ while chimpanzees and bonobo are listed as ‘Endangered.’

"To see the Eastern gorilla -- one of our closest cousins -- slide towards extinction is truly distressing," says Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General, in a press release.

"We live in a time of tremendous change and each IUCN Red List update makes us realize just how quickly the global extinction crisis is escalating. 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."

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