Great apes hardest hit in conservation crisis.
Bonobos are one of the critically endangered great apes with fewer than
10,000 estimated to live in the wild. (Photo by Vanessa Woods)
The World Conservation Union has just released its 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The report states that of the 41,415 species now on their Red List, 16,306 are threatened with extinction (up from 16,118 last year). Currently one in four mammals, one in eight birds and 70% of the world’s assessed plants that appear on the List are in jeopardy.
The great apes are the most critically endangered:
A reassessment of our closest relatives, the great apes, has revealed a grim picture. The Western Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) has moved from Endangered to Critically Endangered, after the discovery that the main subspecies, the Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), has been decimated by the commercial bushmeat trade and the Ebola virus. Their population has declined by more than 60% over the last 20-25 years, with about one third of the total population found in protected areas killed by the Ebola virus over the last 15 years.“Our lives are inextricably linked with biodiversity and ultimately its protection is essential for our very survival. As the world begins to respond to the current crisis of biodiversity loss, the information from the IUCN Red List is needed to design and implement effective conservation strategies – for the benefit of people and nature.”
The Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii) remains in the Critically Endangered category and the Bornean Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) in the Endangered category. Both are threatened by habitat loss due to illegal and legal logging and forest clearance for palm oil plantations. In Borneo, the area planted with oil palms increased from 2,000 km2 to 27,000 km2 between 1984 and 2003, leaving just 86,000 km2 of habitat available to the species throughout the island.
- Jane Smart, Head of IUCN's Species Programme