Mountain gorillas in East and Central Africa have been taken off the ‘critically endangered’ species list following a jump in numbers over the past decade.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Mountain Gorilla numbers have jumped from 680 in 2008 to over 1,000 individuals this year, the highest ever recorded for the subspecies.
“Whilst it is fantastic news that Mountain Gorillas are increasing in number, this subspecies is still endangered and therefore conservation action must continue,” said Liz Williamson, primate specialist at IUCN.
The Mountain Gorillas are on the IUCN Red List, which contains more than 95,000 species of plants and animals that are endangered, some at risk of extinction.
The IUCN said intensive conservation efforts including anti-poaching patrols and veterinary interventions had helped preserve and grow the numbers.
But threats to the Mountain Gorilla remain high, as their habitat at the Virunga Massif and Bwindi-Sarambwe, covering approximately 792 km2 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, are bordered by farmland, supported by a growing human population.
Poaching, recurring civil unrest and human-introduced diseases such as Ebola, also place the species at risk.
“Coordinated efforts through a regional action plan and fully implementing IUCN Best Practice guidelines for great ape tourism and disease prevention, which recommend limiting numbers of tourists and preventing any close contact with humans, are critical to ensuring a future for the Mountain Gorilla,” said Williamson in a media statement.
The Mountain Gorilla is one of two subspecies of the Eastern Gorilla (Gorilla beringei); the Eastern Gorilla species remains critically endangered.