Mountain gorilla numbers are on the up, after a successful conservation campaign to bring them back from the edge of extinction.
Today, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said they were updating the status of mountain gorillas from “Critically Endangered” to “Endangered”. This was after the number of these animals in the wild was raised to more than 1,000.
However, the IUCN – which today released its updated Red List – was keen to point out that mountain gorillas were still endangered, and the conservation programs would need to continue to ensure that they survived.
Dr Liz Williamson, from the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group, said in a statement that factors like “limiting numbers of tourists and preventing any close contact with humans” were critical to ensuring their future.
The mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) is one of two subspecies of the eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei). In 2008, due to activities such as poaching, their numbers were estimated to have dropped to just 680.
The rise to 1,000 represents the highest number of this subspecies ever recorded. Conservation efforts include having vets help out the animals, for example by removing snares, and also running anti-poaching patrols.
Mountain gorillas are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda. But these areas are popular spots for poaching and agriculture and have a growing human population. Other threats include human-introduced diseases like Ebola.
This wasn’t the only positive animal news to come out of the IUCN Red List. They also noted that the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) had been upgraded from “Endangered” to “Vulnerable”, as its global population has doubled to 100,000 since the 1970s.
“The recovery follows international bans on commercial whaling in the North Pacific and in the Southern Hemisphere, in place since 1976, and significant reductions in catches in the North Atlantic since 1990, noted the IUCN,” they wrote.
The gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) had also been upgraded from “Critically Endangered” to “Endangered”, with both whales being historically hunted for their blubber, oil, and meat.
Many animals remain under great threat, however. According to the IUCN, there are now 96,951 species on the Red List, 26,840 of which are threatened with extinction.