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Monday, 19 September 2016 13:51

IUCN: A l l G o r i l l a S p e c i e s N o w C r i t i c a l l y E n d a n g e red Featured

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“Our planet is most certainly
at a crossroads,” declared
Zhang Xinsheng, president of the
International Union for the Conservation
of Nature, Thursday at the
opening ceremony of the IUCN
World Conservation Congress.
“This unique gathering of
top minds holds the key to innovation,
inspiration and most importantly,
action,” he told delegates
from 192 countries gathered in
Honolulu for the triennial event,
the first ever held in the United
States.
“The path we take as a
global community, and how we
choose to walk down that path in
the next few years, will define humanity’s
opportunities for generations
to come. These decisions will
also affect the boundaries of those
opportunities,” said Zhang. “As we
all know, there are limits to what
our Earth can provide, and it is up
to us to make the decisions today
that will ensure those resources are
still here tomorrow.”
A report released at the
conference today indicates that
many of the world’s gorillas may
not be here tomorrow.
The Eastern lowland gorilla,
called Grauer’s gorilla, Gorilla
beringei graueri, is newly
listed as Critically Endangered due
to illegal hunting for bushmeat, according
to the latest update of the
IUCN Red List of Threatened
Species.
Hunting has made the
Grauer’s gorilla population plummet
by 77 percent since 1994,
falling from 16,900 individuals to
just 3,800 in 2015.
Gorillas are divided into
two species – Eastern and Western
– each with two subspecies. The
Eastern gorillas include the subspecies
Eastern lowland gorilla,
Gorilla beringei graueri, and
Mountain gorilla, Gorilla beringei
beringei.
The Western gorillas include
the subspecies
Western lowland
gorilla, Gorilla gorilla
gorilla, and the
Cross River gorilla,
Gorilla gorilla
diehli.
Both species and all
four subspecies are
now listed as Critically
Endangered on
the IUCN’s Red List
of Threatened
Species.
“To see the Eastern
gorilla, one of our
closest cousins,
slide towards extinction
is truly distressing,”
said Inger Andersen,
IUCN director general.
“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,” said
Andersen. “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 new designation for
the world’s largest living primate
follows a report earlier this year by
the Wildlife Conservation Society,
WCS, and Fauna & Flora International,
FFI, showing the collapse
of Grauer’s gorilla numbers due to
illegal hunting and civil unrest.
“We are grateful that IUCN
and the Species Survival Commission
Primate Specialist Group have
accepted our recommendations to
upgrade the listing of Grauer’s gorilla,”
said Andrew Plumptre, lead
author of the revised listing, titled,
“Critical Endangered status will
raise the profile of this gorilla subspecies
and bring attention to its
plight. It has tended to be the neglected
ape in Africa, despite being
the largest ape in the World.”
Few Grauer’s gorillas exist
in captivity and if this ape becomes
extinct in the wild it will be lost
forever, warns Plumptre.
The WCS and FFI surveys
documented that Grauer’s gorilla
has declined by at least 77 percent
over the past 20 years using three
methods of estimation. Other
methods estimated up to a 94 percent
decline at specific sites where
they have been monitored over
time.
A decline of 80 percent
over the time span of three generations
leads to a listing of Critically
Endangered status. Twenty years is
considered to be the duration of
one generation for these gorillas,
as they are a long-lived ape.
The scientists who surveyed
the Grauer’s gorilla population
say the main cause of the
decline is hunting for bushmeat,
which is taking place around villages
and mining camps established
by armed groups deep in the
forests in eastern DR Congo.
The mines are set up in remote
areas to provide the financing
for weapons to continue the armed
struggle by these groups. Being
deep in the forest to avoid detection,
they are also in the areas
where gorillas have tended to survive
because of the remoteness and
distance from villages and roads.
There is no agriculture in
these sites, so the miners/rebels
can only subsist off bushmeat. Gorillas
provide more meat than most
species per shotgun cartridge and
can be tracked easily because they
are mainly terrestrial and move in
a group, making them vulnerable
to hunting.WCS DRC Project Director
Deo Kujirakwinja, who has established
the data collection across
most of Grauer’s range, said, “The
data used to estimate this decline
came from park rangers of the DR
Congo protected area authority
ICCN as well as local communities
which are entered in software
called SMART (Spatial Monitoring
And Reporting Tool). It shows the
value of such monitoring databases
once established and it is vital they
continue to be supported to allow
us to continue to monitor the gorillas
in future.”
Only one site, the highland
sector of Kahuzi-Biega National
Park, has shown an increase in gorilla
numbers over the past 15
years and only where resources
have been invested to protect these
apes from hunting.
These results have just been
accepted for publication in “PLoS
One,” an open source and peer reviewed
scientific journal.
Today’s IUCN Red List update
also reports the decline of the
Plains Zebra, Equus quagga, due to
illegal hunting.
The once widespread and
abundant Plains Zebra has moved
from a listing of Least Concern to
Near Threatened. The population
has reduced by 24 percent in the
past 14 years from around 660,000
to a current estimate of just over
500,000 animals.
In many countries Plains
Zebra are only found in protected
areas, yet population reductions
have been recorded in 10 out of the
17 range states since 1992. The
Plains Zebra is threatened by hunting
for bushmeat and skins, especially
when they move out of
protected areas.
Three species of antelope
found in Africa – Bay Duiker,
Cephalophus dorsalis, White-bellied
Duiker, Cephalophus leucogaster,
and Yellow-backed Duiker,
Cephalophus silvicultor, – also
have been moved from a listing of
Least Concern to Near Threatened.
While the populations of these
species within protected areas are
relatively stable, those found in
other areas are decreasing due to
continued illegal hunting and habitat
loss.
“Illegal hunting and habitat
loss are still major threats driving
many mammal species towards extinction,”
says Carlo Rondinini, coordinator
of the mammal
assessment at Sapienza University
of Rome “We have now reassessed
nearly half of all mammals. While
there are some successes to celebrate,
this new data must act as a
beacon to guide the conservation of
those species which continue to be
under threat.”
This update of The IUCN
Red List brings some good news
for the Giant Panda and the Tibetan
Antelope, demonstrating that conservation
action can deliver positive
results.
Previously listed as Endangered,
the Giant Panda, Ailuropoda
melanoleuca, is now listed as Vulnerable,
as its population has
grown due to effective forest protection
and reforestation.
The improved status confirms
that the Chinese government’s
efforts to conserve this
species are effective. Still, climate
change is predicted to eliminate
more than 35 percent of the
Panda’s bamboo habitat in the next
80 years and as a result, the Panda
population is projected to decline,
reversing the gains made during
the last two decades.
To protect this species, it is
critical that the effective forest protection
measures are continued and
that emerging threats are addressed.
“The Chinese government’s
plan to expand existing
conservation policy for the species
is a positive step and must be
strongly supported to ensure its effective
implementation,” says the
IUCN.
Due to successful conservation
actions, the Tibetan Antelope,
Pantholops hodgsonii, has been
moved from a listing as Endangered
to Near Threatened.
The population underwent a
severe decline from around one
million to an estimated 65,000-
72,500 in the 1980s and early
1990s. This was the result of commercial
poaching for the valuable
underfur, called shahtoosh, which
is used to make shawls. It takes
three to five hides to make a single
shawl, and as the wool cannot be
sheared or combed, the animals are
killed. Rigorous protection has
been enforced since then, and the
population is currently likely to be
between 100,000 and 150,000.
Other conservation successes include
the Greater Stick-nest Rat,
Leporillus conditor, endemic to
Australia, which has improved status,
moving from Vulnerable to
Near Threatened. This is due to a
successful species recovery plan,
which has involved reintroductions
and introductions to predator-free
areas. This unique nest-building rodent
is the last of its kind, with its
smaller relative the Lesser Sticknest
Rat, Leporillus apicalis, having
died out in the 20th Century.
The resin created by the rats to
build their nests is so strong that
they can last for thousands of years
if they are not exposed to water.
The Bridled Nailtail Wallaby,
Onychogalea fraenata, has
also improved in status, having
been moved from Endangered to
Vulnerable. Endemic to Australia,
this once common species had a
steep population decline during the
19th and early 20th centuries due
to the impacts of invasive species
and habitat loss. A successful
translocation conservation program
establishing new populations
within protected areas is enabling
this species to begin to recover.
On Saturday, IUCN, its
Species Survival Commission, and
nine Red List partner institutions
forged a new commitment to support
the IUCN Red List.
The institutions include:
Arizona State University; BirdLife
International; Botanic Gardens
Conservation International; Conservation
International; Nature-
Serve; Royal Botanic Gardens
Kew; Sapienza University of
Rome; Texas A&M University and
the Zoological Society of London.
These organizations will
jointly commit more than US$10
million over the next five years towards
achieving an ambitious
strategic plan that aims to double
the number of species assessed on
the IUCN Red List by the year
2020.
The IUCN Red List now includes
82,954 species of which
23,928 are threatened with extinction.
© Environment News Service
(ENS) 2016. All rights reserved.
www.ens-newswire.com
Giant pandas are native to centralwestern
and south western China.
(Photo by momo)

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